NewsProject: Drive Safer


Inside look: Wisconsin State Patrol catches drivers speeding from the air

When the Wisconsin Air Patrol is out, they catch speeding drivers before a driver can hear a siren or see a squad car.
Posted at 4:31 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-03 16:28:08-05

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Wis. — If you are speeding on Wisconsin freeways, it isn’t just the troopers on the ground who might be tracking your speed. They are also in the air.

TMJ4 Reporter Rebecca Klopf (left), TMJ4 Photojournalist Jeremy Dunk (middle) and Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper Andrew Melloch (right) during a air patrol enforcement ride-along.

When the Wisconsin Air Patrol is out, they catch speeding drivers before a driver can hear a siren or see a squad car.

“The reason you are being stopped today is for your speed," said Trooper Andrew Melloch during a traffic stop on I-94. "Do you know how fast you were going before the last exit?”

The Wisconsin State Patrol Air Support Unit Plane as it circles I-94 in Jefferson County looking for reckless drivers.

TMJ4 rode along with Melloch during aerial enforcement in Jefferson County. While Melloch waited in his squad car on the ground, another trooper, like Kurt Bauer who also happens to be a pilot with the State Patrol, is in the air. Not only can Bauer see how fast a driver is going, but he also has a better vantage point to see if drivers aggressively weaving in and out of traffic or tailgating.

speed traffic ticket Wisconsin state patrol
Wisconson State Patrol Trooper Andrew Melloch pulling over a driver for speeding on I-94. The driver was clocked going 93 mph on the highway.

“The air support unit, we can use the airplane to leverage a better point of view to detect reckless driving and speeding,” said Bauer.

They track speed using lines on the freeway that you might not even notice as you are driving.

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Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper Andrew Melloch talks to a driver who was issued a warning for the speed they were driving on I-94.

“Typically, what we'll do is we'll run speed enforcement details over a certain area. It's usually about a one-mile stretch of highway. The stripes are painted on the highway at 660 feet. As the pilot, I use a stopwatch to time the cars between those points. The stopwatch will give me a speed, which I'll radio to ground cars and they'll stop the car,” said Bauer.

The whole process to pull over the correct driver is like something out of a video game.

You hear the pilot on the radio tell the trooper on the ground, “Under the bridge in 3, 2, 1.”

As the speeding driver goes along on the highway, the pilot times the trooper on the ground to end up right next to him.

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Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper Kurt Bauer is also a pilot for the Air Support Unit.

Pilot on the radio: “Outside your door in 3, 2, 1, bingo! There is nothing between you and the target.”

And just like that, the trooper ends up right behind the speeding driver and pulls that car over.

As the pilot confirms the trooper has the correct car, he also gives the speed the driver was caught driving at.

Pilot on the radio: “Again, your high speed is going to be 93.”

Wisconsin State Patrol
Wisconsin State Patrol squads are lined up on an exit ramp waiting to find out which vehicles are speeding from a pilot flying overhead.

During the course of four hours that TMJ4 rode along for, more than a dozen vehicles were stopped. Some people were given warnings and some tickets. The person pulled over driving the fastest and most aggressively was a man who was nearly 60 years old.

“Age typically doesn’t matter. We see a little bit of aggressive and reckless behavior with the younger drivers, but it comes in all forms,” said Melloch.

TMJ4 Reporter Rebecca Klopf asks a question of Trooper Andrew Melloch (right) while photojournalist Jeremy Dunk films from the backseat.

As the enforcement wrapped up for the day, Melloch said he felt like these types of traffic stops make a difference.

“Whether that’s a warning or a citation, I think it makes them think again when they travel the same route that they have gotten pulled over in that spot once before and hopefully will slow down in the future,” said Melloch.

Air patrol enforcement is not a one-time thing. The Wisconsin State Patrol performs about 80 aerial enforcements a year.

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