Pennsylvania bill would permit local police to use radar

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/24/2013

The Pennsylvania General Assembly returned to the Capitol on Monday after a nearly three-month break. One issue that could come up for consideration during the fall session is a bill that 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 are allowed to use radar.

Sponsored by Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, one bill would change the state’s distinction. HB38 would permit local and regional 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.

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 all traffic enforcement tools available.

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 help guard against cities setting up speed traps, the bill would allow local departments to keep up to 50 percent of fine money.

In addition, warnings would be given to violators for the first four months. Once the warning period ends, tickets could only be written for drivers who exceed the posted speed by at least 10 mph.

Scavello’s bill is awaiting consideration in the House Transportation Committee.

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

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