Expanded speed radar use sought in Mississippi

| 2/15/2008

Multiple bills in the Mississippi Legislature would expand the use of radar by sheriff’s deputies in the state.

State law now restricts the use of speed radar detection equipment to the Mississippi Highway Patrol and city police departments. Cities with populations of fewer than 2,000 are prohibited from using radar on their public streets while cities with populations of more than 15,000 can use radar on federal highways within their boundaries.

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 say the use of radar would help curb speeding and save lives in places where the population is growing outside city limits.

One bill would give all county sheriffs the green light to use radar detection devices.

Sponsored by Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Purvis, the measure – SB2272 – would allow sheriffs to use radar on roads under the jurisdiction of the board or supervisors for maintenance and construction. Sheriffs could use the devices only on public streets, roads and highways of the county lying outside the limits of municipalities.

Another bill would change the population threshold for cities to use radar. The measure – SB2128 – would allow cities of more than 10,000 to use the detection devices on federal highways within their boundaries.

Three other bills would allow sheriffs to use radar enforcement based on the county’s population. The first bill – HB447 – would limit radar use to sheriffs in counties with populations of at least 65,000. The second bill – HB272 – would limit it to counties with more than more than 70,000 people, while the third bill – SB2287 – would limit it to counties with at least 200,000 people.

The proposals for radar use don’t end there.

One bill – HB377 – would allow sheriffs in Rankin, Hinds and Madison counties to use radar on public streets, roads and highways lying outside the limits of an incorporated city. Another bill – HB571 – would limit radar use to the sheriff in Rankin County.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation would be authorized to use radar on state highways to enforce speed limits solely on large trucks. The measure – HB603 – 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.

One other effort would place additional limits on some speed enforcement. The bill – HB88 – 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 bills all are in committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Mississippi in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor