Pennsylvania bills would expand use of speed radar

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Pennsylvania state lawmakers are back at work after taking some time off. Among the issues that could come up for consideration in the weeks ahead are 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.

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

Vulakovich wrote in a memo to senators: “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.”

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

Sen. John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, is behind a separate bill that specifies the use of speed radar by local law enforcement would be limited to “trained officers” in Philadelphia, Allegheny, Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery counties. Twelve more counties in the third class (populations between 210,000 and 499,999) would also be permitted to use the technology.

Revenue raised from speeding tickets that exceeds 5 percent of the total municipal budget or 5 percent of the regional police department budget would be sent to the Pennsylvania State Police.

No points would be added to an operator’s license unless the speed recorded is at least 10 mph in excess of the posted speed limit.

Rafferty’s bill, SB559, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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

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