Wisconsin State Troopers issue citations, make traffic stops through plane technology

Published: Jul. 15, 2018 at 9:09 AM CDT
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Bill Lindeman was off to work Friday, but the Wisconsin State Patrol trooper swapped his wheels for wings.

"It's great. I love the fly ... and this way somebody else pays for the gas," he joked .

Lindeman is one of the State Patrol's five pilots in its aircraft program. Friday's assignment found him flying over State Highway 29, near Cadott and this weekend’s Rock Fest.

Lindeman said the patrol is not something kept secret.

“We even put signs out telling people ‘Hey, there’s an aircraft zone coming up. We’re checking your speed. Watch what you’re doing,’” he said. “But, they still continue to speed through those zones. We’re just looking for people to comply – voluntarily, but that doesn’t always happen.”

According to the 2017 Wisconsin State Patrol Annual Report, the Air Support Unit conducted 61 traffic enforcement flights stopping 1,899 vehicles. 1,333 citations were issued to drivers who were observed by Wisconsin State Patrol pilots operating in a dangerous manner.

"On an average detail, we'll get probably 35 to 45 ... sometimes up as high as 50 to 55 stops – just depends on the area and how bad the traffic is in that area," Lindeman said.

One of the tactics used by the Air Support Unit to see if drivers are speeding is a timing device, known as VASCAR, which stands for Visual Average Speed Computer And Recorder.

On certain stretches of highways and interstates, there are hash marks, perpendicular to lines which run horizontally with the road..

"When I see a vehicle hit the first line, I flip the switch and when they hit the second line, I flip the switch,” Lindeman said. “It's a timed distance calculation."

That time is converted into a speed. With that, and a vehicle description, the information is reported to troopers on the ground, like Brian LaValley.

"We're able to get some interesting eyes on some of the aggressive drivers out there by having somebody way above us that can see everything, versus us just seeing right what's in front of us," he said. "We have high-speed, following too closely violations, aggressive driving, road rage incidents ... and it's all related to certain types of violations that are very heavy during this time of year."

Teamwork like this between troopers is important in making Wisconsin roadways as safe as they can.

"We can certainly succeed without it, but it's a great tool that helps us do so much more and make a lot more stops,” Lindeman said. “It just makes us more effective."