Pennsylvania bill would authorize local speed radar use

March 26, 2021

Keith Goble

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Speed radar cameras for municipal police could soon win approval at the Pennsylvania statehouse.

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

The House Transportation Committee has voted unanimously to advance a bill to 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.

The Pennsylvania State Police has said that radar is the most effective and accurate speed-control device available. Local police, however, are not permitted to use the enforcement tool.

Need questioned

Thomas McCarey of the National Motorists Association and others have voiced concern that giving municipal police access to the enforcement tool could result in speed traps and departments raking in revenue from tickets.

“Tickets cost north of $170. The money that doesn’t go to the municipalities will go to the Commonwealth,” McCarey wrote in comments on the bill. “The Legislature has an enormous financial stake in voting in favor of radar for municipal police.”

He adds that 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.

“If aggressive radar enforcement of too-low speed limits is for safety, then why not end the fines and impose points-only tickets?”

Legislative details

The bill from Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Mechanicsburg, includes a requirement for 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.

Additionally, revenue collected from speeding tickets could not exceed 1% of a municipality’s annual budget. Any revenue raised exceeding the cap would go to the state’s motor license fund.

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

“Only the State Police are currently authorized to use radar,” Scavello wrote in a memo to lawmakers. “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, HB606, could soon come up for a vote on the House floor. Scavello is the sponsor of the Senate version, SB419. His bill is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Related effort

Another House bill addresses the use of speed timing devices.

Pennsylvania statute requires radar and speedometers to be on a calibration cycle of one year. Electronic timing devices, however, are on a calibration cycle of 60 days.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Lycoming, HB802 would extend the calibration testing cycle for non-radar speed timing devices to one year.

Wheeland notes the change would provide for electronic certification of calibration testing.

The bill is in the House Transportation Committee. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania.

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Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.