Pennsylvania bills permit local police to use speed radar; limit lane use

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Pennsylvania state lawmakers are bringing back bills to allow local police 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.

Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, and Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would change the state’s distinction.

The bills 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 has said 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.

“It is ironic that we don’t allow municipal police to utilize radar; however, we do allow certain municipalities to utilize red-light camera systems,” Vulakovich wrote in a memo to senators.

Vulakovich’s bill, SB535, is also in the Senate Transportation Committee. Readshaw’s bill, HB71, is in the House Transportation Committee.

Another bill in the House Transportation Committee is intended to entice more drivers to make sure they stay to the right through the threat of increased fines.

The Keystone State already prohibits drivers from hanging out in the left lane. Travelers have limited left lane use on multilane roadways.

Exceptions are made for vehicles traveling at a speed greater than the traffic flow. Drivers are also permitted to use the lane for up to two miles in preparation for a left turn or to allow traffic to merge.

Rep. Dom Costa, D-Stanton Heights, has introduced a bill, HB94, to increase fines for failure to keep right from $25 to $100.

Costa said the stiffer punishment is necessary because motorists traveling slowly in the left-hand lane can “present both a frustration and danger” to other drivers.

“Vehicles traveling at a slow speed in the left-hand lane for an extended period can cause road rage, tailgating, and forces vehicles to pass in the right-hand lane, thereby diminishing safety on our roadways,” Costa wrote.

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