Pennsylvania local police to get speed radar?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/14/2014

A state legislative panel met recently to discuss an effort to allow local police in Pennsylvania to use speed radar.

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.

The Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing to discuss legislation that would change the state’s distinction.

Sponsored by Senate Transportation Chairman John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, SB1428 would permit local police officers to use radar to nab speeders.

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.

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan told lawmakers that radar is the most effective and accurate speed-control device available; however, local police departments have not been permitted to use the enforcement tool.

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.

Noonan attempted to quell that concern.

“If we found some municipality that was abusing this privilege, I don’t think it would be very difficult for us to go back and remedy that very quickly,” Noonan testified.

A related bill from Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, would allow “full-service police departments” to use radar. To help guard against cities setting up speed traps, HB1272 would authorize local departments to keep no more than 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.

“We often talk about equipping our officers with the latest and best in technology; however, for some reason Pennsylvania has not yet provided its law enforcement officers with radar technology that has been around since World War II,” Vulakovich wrote in a memo to senators. “It is well past time we provide our officers with this speed enforcement mechanism.”

Vulakovich’s bill, SB1340, is also in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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