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As many a driver goes about the daily routine of travelling from A to B, we can all accept that we don´t always drive within the confines of the law. Whether it´s that sneaky 5 kilometres an hour over the limit or not fully coming to a halt at the “STOP” sign, or even the occasional acknowledgement that we know we are doing something seriously wrong, but it´s ok because there are no Guardia about. Well, it might be time to think again!

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As you go about your journey, your vigilance may be somewhat tuned in to watching for the green and white vehicles, with men and women from the Tráfico department of the Guardia Civil, waiting to catch us out and, some might say, earn a quick few euro off the back of our driving infractions. In fact, although the data is never officially released, it is believed that traffic violations bring in over 400 million euro in revenue. But where does our own surveillance end? Do we ever consider that Big Brother is watching, but not from the roadside, or the unmarked car, but from above, in one of 18 helicopters that are operated by the DGT traffic department, in seven bases across Spain, with the single aim of patrolling the road network to catch us out.

In 2011, these helicopters conducted a total of 5,729.50 hours of flying times, mostly during the day, with only 107.04 of that amount being conducted at night time. During their operations, they filed reports for traffic violations against 7,680 vehicles, for offences such as crossing the white line in inappropriate places, to using a mobile phone whilst driving, two of the most common violations reported by the eagle eyed operators at 300 metres above the ground.

The airborne team at Madrid conducted a total of 1,809 hours of flight in 2011, in Coruña it was 410 hours, Malaga was 864, the Sevilla team clocked up 596 hours, there were 907 hours of flight for the Valencia crew, Valladolid did 572 and the team in Zaragoza clocked up 571 hours.

But, as is the case with everything technological, things are evolving. Later this year, the helicopters will also be fitted with a new speed monitoring system, “Project Pegasus”, a radar system in which the DGT has been working on since 2006. Having chosen the target vehicle, the system fires a laser pulse every three seconds that it obtains a path through its various changes of position. By adding the time variable, the system obtains the average speed of an error ratio between 0 and 1%.

So, as well as your alertness of road level inspections, keep an eye out for these yellow and blue buzzards that might be flying above you. Of course, if you drive within the letter of the law, you have nothing to worry about, but if you don´t, just remember that Big Brother IS watching.


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