Cruising the sky for speeders

Tobias Romaniuk
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Chopper helps police keep speeds down

An RCMP helicopter arcs across the treetops, lining up with the Trans-Canada Highway and following the black ribbon of asphalt.

Const. Stephan Remillard sits beside the pilot looking for speeding vehicles.

Together with a team of officers in vehicles spread out in both directions along the highway, the helicopter can quickly spot speeders on a stretch of road far longer than anything an officer on the ground could hope to see.

At the Foxtrap weigh scales before the helicopter takes off on patrol, Remillard explains what he will be doing in his role as the eye in the sky.

“I’m using a stopwatch, and we have preset markers at 500 metres. We clock the vehicles through those quadrants and basically it’s simple physics.”

Using a few calculations, Remillard figures out a vehicle’s speed and, if it’s speeding, radios a description of the vehicle to a police cruiser waiting on the highway.

The helicopter is just one more tool in traffic enforcement, said Cpl. Tony Young.

Officers also use handheld radar units and radar units mounted in their cars.

“All these little tools that we have are basically used to enforce (speed limits) and try to get people to slow down on our highways,” he said.

The posted speed limit is a top speed, but weather conditions may make that speed unsafe. It all comes down to the experience and comfort level of the driver, said Young.

“A safe speed is really very subjective to the weather conditions, the road conditions and to the driver’s own experience,” he said.

In the winter, with slippery roads, a safe driving speed might be 70 kilometres, said Young, but that depends on the driver.

No matter the conditions, 160 kilometres an hour is not a safe speed on the Trans-Canada Highway, said Young, adding that such speeds are not rare.

“The speeds are very high and we see it at all times of the day, from five o’clock in the morning to late at night. And when I say high I mean 150, 160,” he said.

If a moose were to step onto the road there would be little time to react at that speed, and the stopping distance would be greatly increased, he said.

Organizations: Trans-Canada Highway, RCMP

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Recent comments

  • California Pete from NFLD
    June 27, 2012 - 12:27

    Let me see. Down here in California it adds up quick 15 MPH over the posted 75 = $ 475.00 Solo in Diamon lane $ 425.00 Total = 900.00 It sure makes you think twice But then the CHP use fixed wing single engine planes and timing marks on the freeway and are in direct communication with the black and white on the ground. Enjoy your ride and have a nice day he tells you after reciving your bill

    • David
      June 27, 2012 - 15:54

      If you want to use California as an analogy, here's something else: that state is bankrupt. How about Montana and Texas? Make all the uninformed smug comments about "Rednecks" all you want ---- and that IS rich, coming from this place!! ---- but people have a lot more deep, genuine pride in those places than people do here. Their policy is: If you get caught, we'll write you a great big ticket. But there's lots of near-empty roads here, and if you want to kill yourself in a car, there's really nothing we can do to stop you.

  • David
    June 27, 2012 - 11:37

    This is nothing more than an extravagant 'job perk', a complete waste of public money so that selected officers can be rewarded with a little novetly and a bit of fun under the thin disguise of "professional training". The RCMP are extremely well paid already for the patheitically bad job this "police force" cdoes, and are lucky to have a job at all. Making it into a public PR news item as they have is a VERY stupid idea, with all the backlash obvious. But then, I wouldn't expect anytihng less from the geniuses at the RCMP.

  • saelcove
    June 27, 2012 - 10:39

    this must be a joke, why bother no one pays fine

  • Calvin
    June 27, 2012 - 10:39

    People, there is a reason they use 500m intervals. At 120km/hr you are travelling 33.3m/sec, so it takes you 15 seconds to travel the 500m. At 140km/hr is 38.8m/sec and it takes 13 seconds to travel 500m, 160km/hr is 44.4m/sec and it takes 11 seconds to travel 500m. Argue with the math if you like, numbers dont lie. So the stop watch will tell the police whether or not someone is speeding. It is then up to the officer on the ground to catch the person speeding on radar, because they cant give someone a ticket on the air patrol alone. It is not about creating revenue, it is about slowing people down during peak traffic times. Like this Canada Day weekend, it would be much better if we didnt have to hear about someone being killed on the highways next Tuesday, and hopefully we are all that lucky. And if luck abandons us, maybe the police patroling the highways will prevent a catastrophe.

  • lol
    June 27, 2012 - 10:24

    waste of money

  • Denis
    June 27, 2012 - 10:04

    Another waste of taxpayers dollars. The sleeping cop on the side of the road works just fine

  • Chris
    June 27, 2012 - 09:35

    Seriously?? What ever it takes to get these clowns off the road. Policing is NOT a revenue neutral activity and I applaud the efforts of these officers. I only wish they would patrol the Outer Ring in the city the same way. Doing the speed limit on that highway is suicide. At 110 km/h you are passed like you are parked.

  • Alex
    June 27, 2012 - 09:11

    Beyond stupid. I can see this making money only in the most ideal circumstances. And even then, there's a cost to the environment for burning all that fuel. Also as W. Bagg has mentioned, there is so much error involved in clocking these cars, I wonder if a ticket issued using this method would even hold up in a court of law.

  • David
    June 27, 2012 - 09:02

    When the media runs stories day after day after dsay of speeders killing themselves or others on Newfoundlad highways, I will consider it a problem. But it simply isn't. Drunk driving is an absolute epidemic here that kills people, does horrendous damage, and leaves the general popualtion feeling unsafe aout being on the roads at any time of day. Sell that stupid helicopter for breathalyzer units. Well, unless "good policing" really comes down to writing tickets and generating money.....

  • Joe it all
    June 27, 2012 - 08:59

    I think that highway cameras recording the speed and licence number would be much better and much more cost effective. Then you would have 24/7 coverage and they would pay for themselves in no time. We need them in more places than just on the TCH!

    June 27, 2012 - 08:57

    Too few speeders? Have you driven the divided highway lately? between the fast and the furious honda civics with teenage pilots to the middle aged man with a mid life crisis corvette. Don't forget the bikes (crotch rockets) . Many of these guys will kill somone with the speeds they are driving. nice to see enforcement Tale a few licenses while you are out....... cheers

  • Jason
    June 27, 2012 - 08:06

    Way to go again Mr. Harper........ Rather then spend your money on Search and Rescue, Coast Guard, and Fisheries.........send the Cowboys in the air spending thousands of dollars an hour just to give out a few $100.00 speeding tickets!!! and in other news........fisherman calls for help and gets a "not for profit" call center in Italy.......shame!!!

    • SR
      June 27, 2012 - 08:28

      It's more than a few speeding tickets. It is dangerous driving. How trivial is it when one of them hits your car at 160. You won't know because you won't know what hit you. $100 is a lot cheaper that the cost of cleaning up an accident. I don't know how some of them pass the road test.

    • Kent
      June 27, 2012 - 09:00

      It 's not about collecting money from speeding tickets. Rather, it is about catching fools who put other people's lives at risk while speeding.

  • Buddy Dudeman
    June 27, 2012 - 07:48

    Has the price of helicopter fuel gone down, too?

  • W Bagg
    June 27, 2012 - 07:45

    I always wondered how they accounted for parallax in the situation, unless the helicopter is directly above both markers, this plays an effect on the determined speed. Without crunching the numbers, 1-20km/hr would be hard to account for. Unless they are only looking for people doing 135 km/hr plus.

    • David Wilson
      June 27, 2012 - 08:47

      W BRAGG, your comment makes no sense. Speeder at marker (start stop watch) speeder at next marker (stop stop watch). Distance divided by time is the speed. A 20 km/hr variation is 3 seconds therefore parallax is not a factor.

  • Speedos impractical
    June 27, 2012 - 07:27

    Whats that about 4 G a hour. Seems we have too many cops chasing to few speeders. Only NL would this make sense. Thats a crime.