WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Warning: you are being watched from above.
The Memorial Day weekend is a busy time for Florida Highway Patrol Troopers. The agency is ramping up high-flying efforts to keep lead-footed drivers from causing potentially fatal crashes.
Many drivers would admit that they have been there; right in the sights of a law enforcement officer getting pulled over for speeding.
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Garfield Johnson stops as many violators as he can in one work shift. On Friday afternoon, he stopped several drivers on Interstate 95 in Palm Beach Gardens. The driver was traveling at 87 miles per hour - 17 miles per hour over the speed limit. Trooper Johnson fined him $256.
A half-dozen Troopers will patrolling Interstate 95 and a number of other major roadways this holiday weekend. They will be on the ground but if look up, you may see the second part of FHP's one-two punch.
An FHP pilot acts as 'eyes in the sky', identifying speeders before they even know they are being watched. "It's very effective," said Trooper Johnson. "By the time the driver observes you, the speed is already observed by the aircraft," he said.
The FHP pilot clocks vehicles with a stop watch as they travel between lines painted on highways. Descriptions of violators' vehicles are then radioed down to the Troopers on the ground and the pursuit begins - stopping what could have been a dangerous situation. "The end result, in worst cases, is death," said Trooper Johnson.
Last Memorial Day weekend, FHP reported 27 fatal crashes in the state. This holiday weekend, there will be a major effort to keep Florida's roads safer.
"All the crashes I saw within the last month that resulted in death - and I saw four - all preventable," said Johnson.
There are three FHP aircraft in south Florida. It costs about $200 per hour to fly each airplane.
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