Mississippi bills cover speed radar use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/9/2012

The annual battle at the Mississippi Legislature of who gets to use speed radar to write tickets is once again underway.

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 while populations of more than 15,000 can use radar on federal highways within their boundaries.

Efforts to expand radar use in the state have struggled for most of the past decade as opponents say the enforcement tool could be used to set up speed traps and rake in revenue from tickets.

State Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, has said he has a problem with efforts to extend the use of speed radar to sheriffs’ deputies. Moak previously told Land Line he remains opposed to these attempts because “the state already allows the Highway Patrol to leave state roads and assist local agencies.”

That isn’t good enough for advocates of expanding the use of radar. They cite highway safety figures that show fatalities on county roads average about 235 a year.

As a result, the battle to expand the use of radar to sheriff’s deputies is again occurring at the statehouse.

Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Purvis, is the sponsor of one of the multiple bills to allow sheriffs in all of the state’s 82 counties to use radar on certain roads. His bill – SB2127 – would authorize sheriffs to use the devices only on public streets, roads and highways of the county lying outside the limits of municipalities.

Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, is taking a slightly different approach. Her bill – HB163 – would allow sheriffs to use radar enforcement based on the county’s population. More specifically, radar would be limited to sheriffs in counties with more than 70,000 people.

While there are various efforts to expand the use of radar throughout the state, one bill would place additional limits on some speed enforcement.

Moak is the sponsor of a bill 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.

His bill – HB190 – is intended to help put a stop to blatant attempts to generate revenue through issuing speeding tickets. Use of radar within a certain area of a marked reduction of speed would be outlawed.

Moak has said the rule would allow truckers and other drivers an opportunity to slow their vehicle before they are caught for a speeding violation.

The bills are all in committee.

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

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