Mississippi Senate OKs expanded use of speed radar

| 3/6/2008

An effort to expand the use of radar by sheriff’s deputies in Mississippi is halfway through the statehouse.

State law now restricts the use of speed radar detection equipment to the Mississippi Highway Patrol, city police departments and the Lowndes County sheriff’s department. Cities with populations of fewer than 2,000 are prohibited from using radar on their public streets at all and cities with populations of more than 15,000 can use radar only 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.

Several more bills have been offered this year to make changes to speed radar rules. Most of the bills have failed to meet deadlines to advance, but the Senate voted 31-19 to approve a bill that would give county sheriffs the green light to use radar detection devices. It now moves to the House.

Sponsored by Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, the measure – SB2206 – would allow sheriffs in all counties to use radar on roads under the jurisdiction of the board of 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 that is still active would expand speed radar use only enough to allow the sheriff in Rankin County access to the equipment. The measure – HB571 – is in the House Local and Private Legislation Committee.

Among the failed efforts to expand access to speed radar this year were bills that sought to change the population thresholds for cities to use the detection devices. Other proposals for radar use would have allowed sheriffs in specific counties to use radar.

Another bill would have authorized the Mississippi Department of Transportation to use radar on state highways to enforce speed limits solely on large trucks. It called for permitting 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 have placed additional limits on some speed enforcement. The bill – HB88 – sought to 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.

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