Editorial: Eye in sky is no longer watching us

We’ve all seen the warning signs along interstate highways: “Speed limit enforced by aircraft,” but these days you don’t have to look up in the sky to see if a trooper in the sky is watching you. Budget cuts have curtailed aerial surveillance flights in Virginia.

According to a recent story distributed by the Associated Press, the state started the program in 2000 and from that year through 2008, 5,117 tickets were given out. But from 2008 to 2011, the number dwindled to 87 tickets written.

Why the change? It’s simple. Those flights were costly in terms of manpower, fuel and maintenance. According to the story, it took around $150 for fuel and maintenance for one hour in the air. A typical mission was from four-and-a-half to six hours. Then factor in the cost of a pilot and trooper in the air and one on the ground to catch the speeder spotted from above, and the dollars start stacking up.

It’s unfortunate that this program has been reduced, though understandable. We need troopers watching out for us on our overcrowded, busy interstates where it’s the norm to see a speeding motorist weaving in and out of traffic. But we also need our state to consider the pros and cons of such a costly, labor-intensive program and spend our money wisely.