Pennsylvania bill calls for local speed radar use

March 15, 2023

Keith Goble


A renewed effort on the move in the Pennsylvania statehouse would permit local police departments to use speed radar.

Pennsylvania is the lone state to prohibit municipal police from enforcing speed limits with radar. Since 1961 in the Keystone State, only state troopers have been allowed to use radar.

Currently, local police are limited to enforcement tools such as VASCAR, which determines a vehicle’s speed by measuring the time it takes to move between two points.

Expanded enforcement pursuit

Sen. Greg Rothman, R-Mechanicsburg, tried for years as a state representative to get legislation approved that would allow municipal police officers to use radar to ticket speeders.

The first-term state senator has reintroduced a bill that would authorize local police to issue tickets for speeding violations.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance his latest effort. The bill, SB459, includes multiple conditions that must be met for the use of local radar.

First, no citation would be issued unless the offending driver is exceeding the posted speed by at least 10 mph. In active work zones, the speeding threshold would be at least 5 mph over the posted speed.

One issue that has plagued the pursuit of local speed radar through the years is the concern about the technology being used as a revenue generator.

Rothman attempts to address those concerns by including a provision to only issue written warnings for violations that occur for the first 90 days of enforcement.

Speed radar use would be allowed only when an officer is in or adjacent to a “clearly marked” law enforcement vehicle.

Additionally, revenue collected from speeding tickets could not exceed the previous year’s speed enforcement revenue by more than 1%. Any revenue raised exceeding the cap would go to the state’s motor license fund.

“We know that most crash fatalities are the result of excessive speed, with many of those deaths occurring on local roads where we live,” Rothman said in prepared remarks. “Our police officers do everything possible to keep our communities safe, but they do not have all the tools they need to do the job effectively.”

SB459 includes a requirement for municipalities to first pass an ordinance allowing the use of radar.

Officials with the Pennsylvania State Police have said that radar is the most effective and accurate speed-control device available.

Critics say the state would be better served to follow the 85th percentile speed rule – the speed at or below which 85 % of vehicles travel in free-flowing traffic.

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate. LL

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