As part of their helicopter surveillance, the Spanish traffic authorities (DGT) detects a number of vehicle safety infractions, such as not wearing seatbelts, not wearing them correctly, speeding, manually using cell phones while driving and texting while driving. This overhead vantage point also allows authorities to detect another important infraction: improper use of child restraint systems and improper placing of children in cars.
A recent control and surveillance campaign on the use of seatbelts and child restraint systems revealed an alarming figure: 167 children under age 12 were riding without this important safety device, 46 of them in the front seat, over the mere seven days the campaign was carried out.
The Pegasus helicopter, long known for its ability to detect speeding and other infractions, also supports the ground work carried out by the Spanish Civil Guard highway patrol in respect of the use of child restraint systems and where children are placed in cars.
The Spanish traffic authorities shared two illustrative cases with us: in both cases, children were in the front seat, although the law clearly stipulates that they must be placed in the back seat (see exceptions here). In addition, the children were not in car seats or booster seats, and sometimes were riding without any seat belts at all. In one of the cases, the adult in the car noticed the helicopter and quickly tried to buckle the child up.
During the three years of the program, 3,821 surveillance flight hours have been logged, controlling over 75,000 vehicles and ticketing 18,274 drivers for infractions.
Currently, eight of the DGT's 12 helicopters are outfitted with this type of radar. Each of the seven traffic control centers (in A Coruña, Madrid, Málaga, Seville, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragoza) has been assigned a helicopter with a Pegasus radar to ensure road safety in their respective areas.
Pegasus is outfitted with two cameras: a panoramic device that makes it possible to record a vehicle's speed and another device that reads the vehicle license plate, even at speeds greater than 360 km/h.
The system can operate even at heights of 300 meters and a straight-line distance of one kilometer from the vehicle being observed.
In addition to speed and the proper placement of children in the vehicle, these radars can also capture other infractions from the sky, such as failure to maintain the minimum safety distance between vehicles, driver distractions, manual use of cell phones, improper use of safety devices such as seatbelts and helmets, and dangerous or illegal maneuvers.
Under Spanish regulations, passengers at or under 1.35 meters in height must ride in the back seat using certified restraint systems in accordance with their height and weight.
In addition, failure to place children in a car seat results in a fine of 200 euros and the loss of three points on the driver's license. In fact, the traffic authorities may even immobilize the vehicle, given that the child's life is being put at risk.