French police using drones to track unlawful drivers

Drones are easy to use and much cheaper than other means of enforcement.

Drones are helping a police department in southwestern France catch unlawful drivers. They're easy to use and much cheaper than other means of enforcement.

"The drone is very useful because we can see dangerous drivers on the roads without being seen by them," said police captain Pascal Gensous in an interview with website Marketplace.

The drones aren't able to tell how fast a car is moving because they're not equipped with radars, at least not yet, but they let cops keep an eye on how motorists behave. For example, they can spot drivers who tailgate, swerve in between lanes, or pass on the right.

Officers then dispatch the vehicle information (e.g., "a blue and white Renault Kangoo") to a second team in charge of pulling over the offender a few hundred yards down the road. Gensous explained the drone can help them stop 15 to 20 vehicles per hour.

The French government makes nearly a billion dollars annually from fixed and mobile speed cameras, according to Marketplace. Angry motorists argue using drones to enforce traffic rules will lead to an increase in distracted driving.

"Just think, instead of encouraging drivers to keep an eye on the road we now have to look at the side of the road for speed cameras and now in the air for drones," complained Pierre Chasseray, a spokesman for a lobby group against over-enforcement.

So far, drones aren't widespread across France. No other city has signaled an intention to follow the path blazed by Bordeaux, but that could change in the coming months.

Photo by Ronan Glon.

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