Mississippi lawmakers consider expanded speed radar use

| Friday, January 13, 2006

It didn’t take lawmakers in Mississippi long to convene the 2006 session and revisit the issue of speed radar use throughout the state.

The 2006 session opened Jan. 3 and several radar-related bills have since been brought up for consideration.

Among the measures introduced is a bill that would authorize the Mississippi Department of Transportation to use radar on state highways to enforce speed limits on large trucks.

Sponsored by Rep. Bennett Malone, D-Carthage, HB141 would permit the agency’s law enforcement officers to track speeds of commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight in excess of 10,000 pounds.

Currently, Mississippi restricts the purchase and use of radar-speed-detection equipment to the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and the counties of Harrison and Lowndes. Law enforcement agencies in cities with populations less than 2,000 are prohibited from buying or using radar.

A handful of bills would expand the use of radar by sheriff’s deputies in the state.

Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, has introduced a bill that would allow sheriff’s departments to use radar in more populated counties like Rankin, Hinds and Madison .

An effort sponsored by Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, would allow the sheriff’s deputies in any county with a population of 70,000 or more to use radar on public streets, roads and highways of the county lying outside the limits of an incorporated city.

Sen. Charlie Ross, R-Brandon, would allow usage in counties with a population of 74,000 or more; while Rep. Hank Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, and Sen. Richard White, R-Terry, would limit it to counties with a population of 115,000 or more; and Rep. Chester Masterson, R-Vicksburg, is calling for all counties to be able to use radar.

Similar efforts to expand radar use have failed in past legislative sessions.

Supporters said deputies now must rely solely on their eyes to nab speeders, but radar would make them sure of a driver’s speed. Opponents said the enforcement tool could be used to set up speed traps and rake in revenue from tickets.

A measure that would place additional limits on some speed enforcement also has been introduced.

Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the use of radar on state or federal highways within 1,000 feet of where the posted limit is reduced by 10 mph or more.

The House bills are in the House Transportation Committee and the Senate bills are in a Senate judiciary panel awaiting consideration.

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