Aerial Traffic Control
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Highway Patrol has used aircraft for searches and photography since 1948. But the first time pilots engaged in traffic enforcement was in 1952, when two Ohio Highway Patrol pilots saw a semi driving recklessly in Mahoning County. According to an Ohio Public Safety newsletter, they radioed a ground patrolman, who pulled the truck over.
Fifty-seven years later, Ohio is a national leader in that field.
How Ohio Clocks Speeders.
“I think that they have certainly perfected the system,” says Jim Di Giovanna, the training program manager for the Airborne Law Enforcement Association. The “system” is how Ohio clocks speeders on the highway. Pilots track drivers over a one-mile stretch of road, which has white markers every quarter mile, with a stopwatch to calculate time and distance. One mile gives the officer time to see which drivers are particularly aggressive.
Behind this system are 15 pilots, 16 aircraft and a focus on traffic enforcement, which accounts for 90 percent of the unit’s activity. Because the unit is part of the highway patrol, not a state police organization, it dedicates more time to highway-related issues.
At the Top of the Heap.
In 2008, pilots assisted ground officers in more than 24,000 violations. Randy Boggs, section commander and staff lieutenant of Ohio’s aviation unit, is proud of his unit’s success. “I think I can say pretty safely that we’re at the top of the heap when it comes to that particular category,” he says. And he’s not the only one who feels this way.
Officers from the Ontario Provincial Police spent one week training with Ohio pilots and took that knowledge back to Canada, where they lacked a program in air-traffic enforcement. But now they have a successful program modeled after Ohio’s. “We’re proud of what we do and how we do it, and we were honored that they selected us to come and visit,” Boggs says.
Jamie Shearer is a junior magazine journalism major at Kent State University.