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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published May 14 2012

North Dakota Highway Patrol watches Oil Patch intersections from the air

WILLISTON, N.D. – The next time you blow through a stop sign, the Highway Patrol could be watching from the sky.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol is using aircraft surveillance to make Oil Patch roads safer.

During an enforcement saturation effort near Williston last week, Highway Patrol aircraft monitored rural highway intersections and informed two troopers located on the ground when they spotted violations, said Capt. Alan Billehus.

The patrol issued 21 citations in three hours, primarily for failing to stop or yield the right of way at intersections. One traffic stop led to a citation for a truck that was 11,000 pounds over weight allowance, resulting in a $1,100 fine.

On average, troopers issued a citation about every nine minutes.

“That’s kind of disheartening,” said Billehus, who is commander for the patrol’s northwest region based in Williston.

Right-of-way violations are one of the leading causes of crashes on North Dakota roadways, contributing to the deaths of 24 motorists in 2011, the patrol said.

With the increased traffic in the Oil Patch, troopers are getting creative with enforcement, Billehus said. The aircraft surveillance is a technique troopers will use again, he said. They used it once last fall and issued about 15 citations.

“It’s one more tool that we can use to make intersections safer,” he said.

Typically, the patrol will issue a news release informing the public about a saturation effort. In this case, a news release did not go out, Billehus said.

Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at dalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.