Pennsylvania bill would permit local police to use radar

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editorpa-statehousea

A renewed push at the Pennsylvania statehouse would allow local police to use radar to nab speeders.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that prohibits municipal police from enforcing speed limits with radar. Since 1961, only state troopers are allowed to use radar.

Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, introduced a bill that would change the state’s distinction. SB1340 would permit local and regional police officers to use radar.

“It is ironic that we don’t allow municipal police to utilize radar; however, we do allow certain municipalities to utilize red-light camera systems,” Vulakovich wrote to his fellow senators in a memo.

Currently, local police are limited to electronic tools such as VASCAR, which determines a vehicle’s speed by measuring the time it takes to move between two points.

Supporters say that although radar is considered by many to be one of the most effective and accurate speed-control devices available, local police departments have not been permitted to use all traffic enforcement tools available.

Efforts to expand radar use in the state historically have struggled as opponents say the enforcement tool could be used to set up speed traps and rake in revenue from tickets. Supporters counter that expanding the use of radar beyond major highways would increase safety and reduce fatalities on all the state’s streets.

A related bill would allow “full-service police departments” to use radar. To help guard against cities setting up speed traps, HB1272 would authorize local departments to keep up to 50 percent of fine money.

In addition, warnings would be given to violators for the first four months. Once the warning period ends, tickets could be written only for drivers who exceed the posted speed by at least 10 mph.

“We often talk about equipping our officers with the latest and best in technology; however, for some reason Pennsylvania has not yet provided its law enforcement officers with radar technology that has been around since World War II,” Vulakovich stated. “It is well past time we provide our officers with this speed enforcement mechanism.”

Vulakovich’s bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee. HB1272 has been in the House Transportation Committee since spring 2013.

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