Pennsylvania bill would allow local radar

| 6/23/2011

A renewed effort 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 have been allowed to use radar.

A bipartisan effort led by Rep. Steven Santarsiero, D-Bucks, and Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, would change the state’s distinction. The bill, HB1475, would permit local, full-time police officers who work for “full-service police departments” to use radar.

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.

If signed into law, local governments in counties with populations of at least 210,000 would have the option of adopting an ordinance to approve local radar use. The threshold would limit the use of radar to 16 of the state’s 67 counties.

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

“Local police personnel have long requested this tool to help make their neighborhoods safer and their departments more efficient, and it is time that we extend this resource to them,” Santarsiero said in a statement.

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.

To guard against cities setting up speed traps, the bill would require local departments to send citation revenue that exceeds 5 percent of the total municipal budget, or 5 percent of the regional police department budget, to the state.

HB1475 is awaiting consideration in the House Transportation Committee. A similar bill – SB526 – is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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