Mississippi, Pennsylvania bills would revise speed radar rules

February 3, 2021

Keith Goble


Legislators in Pennsylvania and Mississippi are pursuing changes to how law enforcement is allowed to enforce speed rules, including speed radar.

In Pennsylvania, a renewed effort would authorize speed radar by municipal police.

The Keystone State 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.

Legislation from Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Mechanicsburg, would allow 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.

The Pennsylvania State Police has said that radar is the most effective and accurate speed-control device available but local police departments have not been allowed 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.

Rothman’s bill requires municipalities to first pass an ordinance allowing the use of radar.

Drivers would be ticketed only if the speed recorded is at least 10 miles over the posted speed limit.

Revenue collected from speeding tickets could not exceed 1% of a municipality’s annual budget. The rest of the money would be sent to the state’s transportation enhancements grant program.

Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, says the rule change is long overdue.

“Only the State Police are currently authorized to use radar,” Scavello said in prepared remarks. “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.”

Rothman’s bill, HB134, awaits consideration in the House Transportation Committee. The Senate version from Scavello has not yet been introduced.

Mississippi speed radar

Multiple bills in Mississippi would allow expanded use of speed radar.

State law limits the use of speed radar detection equipment to the Mississippi Highway Patrol, city police departments and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. 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.

The first bill, SB2387, would allow sheriffs to use radar enforcement based on the county’s population. More specifically, radar would be limited to sheriff departments in counties with at least 140,000 people.

The provision would apply to DeSoto, Harrison, Hinds, Jackson, and Rankin counties.

Sheriff departments would be limited to two radar guns. Radar could not be used within 500 yards of the boundary line with a municipality or county or a speed limit change.

Revenue collected from citations would be earmarked for local schools.

A separate bill, HB84, would allow county supervisors throughout the state to authorize county sheriff and deputies to use on county roads.

The third bill, HB1249, would remove the population threshold in statute for municipal law enforcement on municipal streets. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Mississippi and Pennsylvania is available.