Mississippi bills would expand speed radar use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/28/2013

The battle at the Mississippi Legislature to decide who gets to use speed radar to write tickets is 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 to include county roads have struggled for decades as opponents say the enforcement tool could be used to set up speed traps and rake in revenue from tickets.

They point out that extending the use of speed radar to sheriffs’ deputies is unnecessary 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 underway at the statehouse.

Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Purvis, is the sponsor of one bill to allow sheriffs in all of the state’s 82 counties to use radar on certain roads. SB2041 would authorize sheriffs to use the devices only on public streets, roads and highways of the county lying outside the limits of municipalities. The House version of the bill is HB653.

Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, is taking a slightly different approach. HB642 would allow sheriffs to use radar enforcement based on the county’s population. More specifically, radar would be limited to sheriffs in counties with at least 70,000 people.

Two more bills – HB278 and SB2420 – would authorize radar use in the state’s largest counties. Specifically, the enforcement tool could be used in counties with at least 95,000 people.

The bills are all in committee.

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

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