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This sign is probably no more than an empty threat (Cre... This sign is probably no more than an empty threat (Credit: code.monk, Flickr).
You have seen the signs, especially in rural areas where the roads seem endless and remote: "State Police aircraft used in speed enforcement." The signs aren't going away, but the threat is increasingly empty as many state budgets cut back on tracking speeders by air.

In New York State, no tickets have been issued from aircraft since 2005. Sgt. Kern Swoboda, spokesman for the New York State Police, says the planes are still in the police fleet, but paying for pilots and fuel wasn't paying off in revenue so the planes haven't gone up this year.

California has cut way back on using its aircraft for speeders too. The California Highway Patrol still has 15 planes used to catch speeders, but spokeswoman Fran Clader said that as the department's annual air operations budget has dropped from about $12 million to $8 million, aircraft became more focused on supporting searches and pursuits. Washington State is another that has cut way back on speed monitoring pilots.

The Virginia State Police launched an aggressive aerial speed enforcement program in 2000 but largely abandoned regular patrols after 2007. Last year, it flew only one such mission, which resulted in tickets being given to 20 drivers, the department said. It flew four missions the year before, none in 2009 and only one in 2008.

"Due to economic conditions and mandated budget cuts ... we've had to look at cost savings," said department spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

Geller said the cost of aerial speed monitoring by plane costs about $150 per hour -- a figure that includes fuel and maintenance but not manpower. In the past, she said, the speed enforcement flights were paid for with federal grants. But with less federal money coming in lately, resources have been focused on keeping troopers on the road.

Two states bucking the trend and continuing to rack up summons revenue with planes without cutting back are Ohio and Florida. Last year, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said it issued more than 16,000 speeding tickets based on aircraft observations, down only a little from a five-year high of 18,000 written in 2009. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the start of the busy summer travel season, the agency had 10 aircraft in the air doing traffic enforcement.

Florida's Highway Patrol has eight aircraft and eight pilots, who issue approximately 30,000 citations per year.

Even with drastically reduced aerial patrols in some states, the signs remain on the highway and tend to serve as a deterrent on their own. When drivers see the signs warning of aerial, or radar, monitoring, it reflexively causes them to check their speed and adjust downward to avoid getting a ticket.

Signs without planes in the air tend to do some good in getting drivers to slow down, and thus improve public safety. But states don't get the violation revenue if the pilots are not relaying the information to cops to hand out the tickets.

Best advice

Stay within five or six miles per hour of the speed limit and employ a radar detector except in places where they are illegal: Washington DC and Virginia, plus on all military bases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      I agree with Buckingham,s advice. Where the hell are you going ? I do not speed, I do the limit. Now the good part. I get way better gas mileage when I drive, I can get 40 mpg, when my wife drives it goes way down and we only save about 15 minutes. Better the money in my pocket then the greedy oil compines, who should spend 10 times the amount in the doctors office.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Careful, your jealousy and envy are showing...
      • 2 Years Ago
      What is the point of this article??? So what if most of those signs are just an empty threats.... They are there to help enforce drivers NOT TO SPEED.. Instead you are encouraging them to do so. Are you guys at AOL news really that bored and nothing better to report?
      • 2 Years Ago
      I lived in LA from1977 thru 1984. I was given three tickets where I was clocked by an airplane. I beat everyone of them. Every time I went to court the officer that clocked me was`nt at the courthouse, only the officer that wrote the ticket was there. So everything the officer said I did he could not prove because he did not actually clock me speeding. and the officer that did ,did not sign the ticket. So everything the officer said I did was hearsay and inadmissible in court .Don`t be stupid people! It`s only about the money and, always has been!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      • 2 Years Ago
      This article made me realize the sign that says "Speed Limit - 35 Enforced by Aircraft' on our very rural, gravel road in Montana, is no longer there. The sign had been there for many years when I moved here over 30 years ago. Everyone who lives on this road (maybe 15 drivers) regularly drive it at 45 or faster. We often go nearly 60 mph. The joke is there never was any "aircraft"....
      • 2 Years Ago
      this is bullshit- I was nabbed in Washington by Air Patrol.. This (I feel) is a trap.
        • 2 Years Ago
        Silly bitch, you were speeding, you got busted. It is as simple as that. Don't want a ticket? Don't exceed the speed limit. Or if you do speed and get another ticket, keep your trap shut.
      • 2 Years Ago
      As an individual partially disabled within a head on accident by a drunk driver who was traveling at great speed, I appreciate any tool used to stop these individuals who feel that they just due to the fact they have access to a vehicle have the right to drive at whatever speed they feel they want to travel at. Let each and every one of them attempt to live the rest of their life with the adverse affects from such a drivers ignorance of the law. What is achieved by them in arriving at whatever their destination a few minutes early, epecially when it puts in danger the lives of others!!!!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Remember 1984. Orwell. Welcome to the 21st. century.
      • 2 Years Ago
      The word "mostly" is not exactly reassuring. It reminds me of an alarm I installed which was using satellite technology and according to the technician was "Almost always" reliable .....Hmmmm.
      • 2 Years Ago
      de plane?
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thanks for tips AOL! "I feel the need, to speed!"
      • 2 Years Ago
      our medical practices in this country coupled with big pharma kill many times more than speeders ever will so this article is good news
      • 2 Years Ago
      tuco60 Minnesota has giant white lines painted across highways as if they are timing strips or something to be easily seen from the air. Been driving here for 35 years and have yet to see a patrol plane above any highway with these lines. I think they're completely bogus. Try speeding in Owatonna on I35, they use them there. Try it and see :=]
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