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Police Chopper

Rule number one of the Internet should be to always read past the headline before hitting the keyboard to comment. A prime example comes from the latest press release from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The statement's headline implies that PA state troopers will be enforcing seatbelt use from aircraft flying overhead. Frankly, given the budget constraints of most states, we suspect that aerial traffic enforcement is enormously wasteful at best. But the idea of even detecting seatbelt use from the sky seems absurd on its face.

As it turns out, Pennsylvania's belt law only only allows for secondary enforcement anyway. That means if you drive unbelted past a trooper while still observing all other traffic edicts, you can't get pulled over. Hence, the Air, Land and Speed campaign that the Pennsylvania state police is undertaking this summer will be primarily focused on catching speeders and then giving them secondary tickets if they insist on being truly foolish by driving unrestrained.

[Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania | Image: Wikimedia Commons]
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PennDOT, State Police to Conduct Seat Belt Enforcement by Air, Land

Hundreds of Municipal Police Departments to Join 'Click It or Ticket' Effort

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- PennDOT and the Pennsylvania State Police will be introducing the Air, Land and Speed campaign as part of this year's Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement effort, which runs from May 24 to June 13.

The Air, Land and Speed campaign will feature the State Police Aerial Reconnaissance and Enforcement (SPARE) program, which uses aircraft to clock motorists' speed and then radio to troopers on the ground to make the traffic stop. Approximately 450 municipal police departments will supplement the SPARE operations with traditional traffic enforcement along targeted roadways.

"Not wearing a seat belt continues to be one of the leading factors related to injuries and fatalities on Pennsylvania highways," said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. "With the significant amount of traffic that we anticipate for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, this is a perfect time to remind motorists to take an extra few seconds and buckle up."

According to PennDOT, unrestrained fatalities dropped to a record-low of 451 in 2009, down from 567 in 2008. The 451 fatalities are the lowest since PennDOT began keeping records of that information in 1985.

Despite this decrease, nighttime seat belt use continues to be a major area of concern. More than half of all unbelted fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m., including 139 between 10 p.m. and 2:59 a.m. To emphasize the importance of buckling up at all times, police will be dedicating the final week of the campaign to nighttime enforcement.

"Public safety is our number one priority," said State Police Commissioner Col. Frank E. Pawlowski. "Partnering with PennDOT and officers from municipalities across the state, troopers will enforce traffic laws that focus on speed and the use of restraint systems. The unique approach provided by the Air, Land and Speed campaign allows for varied resources to be used to protect citizens."

Under Pennsylvania's seat belt law, all front seat passengers are required to buckle up. If motorists are stopped for a traffic violation and not wearing their seat belt, they can receive a second ticket and second fine.

The state's primary child passenger safety law requires children under the age of four to be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat anywhere in the vehicle. Children ages 4 to 8 must be restrained in an appropriate booster seat when riding anywhere in a motor vehicle. In addition, children ages 8 to 18 must be in a seat belt when riding anywhere in the vehicle.

"Driving within the posted speed limit and ensuring you and all passengers are properly restrained is not only a good idea, it's the law. And we will be vigilant in ensuring those laws are followed," said Pawlowski.

Last year, state and local police departments issued more than 6,600 seat belt citations and more than 400 child safety seat violations. Research has shown that wearing a seat belt can increase your chances of survival by up to 60 percent if you are involved in a crash.

More information on seat belt safety can be found at www.DriveSafePA.org, click on "Traffic Safety Information Centers" at the top, then "Seat Belts."

Media contacts:
Alison Wenger, PennDOT; 717-783-8800
Lt. Myra A. Taylor, State Police; 717-783-5556

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

CONTACT: Alison Wenger, PennDOT, +1-717-783-8800; or Lt. Myra A. Taylor,
State Police, +1-717-783-5556

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Is there like a super-telescope that lets them see through your driver side window to see if you have your seatbelt on? I mean how do you check for seatbelts that high up?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The idea of using aircraft to catch people speeding seriously pisses me off. It's an absolute waste of taxpayer's money. They do it all the time here in Florida.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Only because you can't see them.

        How about you set off earlier?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Helicopter fuel must be cheap :-
      • 5 Years Ago
      If they really wanted to enforce seatbelt use charge $500 for failure to wear a seatbelt.
        • 5 Years Ago
        and then you'll be here bitching about how your insurance rates are too high because the company has to increase your rates to cover the costs of idiots only slightly dumber than you "weeding themselves out"
        • 5 Years Ago
        If the threat of massive internal injuries won't put someone's belt on, the threat of a fine probably won't either.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Paul, you're an idiot.

        So damn stupid it's not even worth anyones time arguing against you.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ya, i agree.
        It's up there with driving on a hand held cell phone and texting (illegal here in NJ).
        A little fine really doesn't scare anyone.

        They should implement a system where each time you get caught the fine is larger.
        Work your way up to $1000.
        This way nobody can say "i didn't know".
        • 5 Years Ago
        If it was really about safety, all such traffic "offenses" would result in points on the license with NO direct monetary penalty. Any class to get rid of the points would also be purely from the private sector, and not from the government.

        I mean, if it's about "safety," that's what it should be, right?

        But nope. Money is what it is all about. Counties/states/cities love exploiting their law enforcement resources to generate revenue for them instead of actually, you know, fighting crime.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think they should concentrate on flying the helicopter rather than watch for people wearing seat belts..........

      The thing about seat belts, they don't cause accidents and the only people hurt are the people who don't have the common sense to wear them.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Not quite true. During evasive manuevers an unbelted driver is more likely to lose control of the vehicle (sitting on a benchseat in the pick-up for example). That could in its self cause a preventable accident. In addition, when said driver flies out of the window and turns his self into a quadriplegic, guess who pays for their care when insurance hits the lifetime max?

      • 5 Years Ago
      "They even got a bear in the air"

      • 5 Years Ago
      I believe PA has the goofiest traffic laws around. One reader commented on the helmet law and it is so true. You can ride a motorcycle, some of them capable of 200mph, with no helmet but we will spend 100 of 1000's of dollars to make sure you wear your seat restraint by spying from above. It is a secondary offense and you can not be stopped for it's violation as primary offense. Priorities in this state run foolishly deep. It should be a personal choice or a nationwide federal law, states are too stupid and overgoverned to decide.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Kinda creepy and expensive for them to have helicopters check cars for seat belts, not like there is a depression right now and there is better things to do with the money. But really, who the hell doesn't wear seatbelts, idots.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Only "idots" don't wear seat belts. Yeah, I know it's a typo on your part.

        Also, I figured out how they'll spot you from the air. Look closely at the pic and you'll see the guy standing on the port side landing skid.. Must be holding a set of binoculars too.
        • 5 Years Ago
        About the same crap they were pulling in Phoenix when I lived there with the highway photo radar and Minivans with photo radar in them. People knew were to look for them, plus, up here with the Crop planes running over the highway with speed guns.
        I wish the cops would spend more times pulling people over that are eating and texting, or driving like idiots instead.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Taxpayers never win.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've always been against helicopter use in the realm of helping catch speeders. To me its a giant waste of tax payers money. The cover of saying its help to enforce seatbelt use um yeah good try.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Judging by the photo, Pennsylvania police are using a helicopter registered to the Western Australian police service - they might find it a little tricky to spot the lack of a seat-belt from Australia...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I thought that ghetto bird looked familiar
      • 5 Years Ago
      Chortle away, but a woman in the UK was ticketed -- not pulled over, mind you -- for eating an apple while driving.

      The charge was that she wasn't in full control of the vehicle. Mentioned here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4788910.stm
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