Pennsylvania bill would tweak speed timing device rule

November 12, 2019

Keith Goble


One bill halfway through the Pennsylvania statehouse addresses the use of speed timing devices.

Pennsylvania law prohibits municipal police from using speed timing devices, such as radar. Only state troopers are allowed to use radar.

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.

Radar and speedometers are required by statute to be on a calibration cycle of one year. Electronic timing devices, however, are on a calibration cycle of 60 days.

The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill that is touted to address inconsistency in radar and speedometer calibration cycle requirements. Specifically, HB1825 would extend the calibration testing cycle for nonradar speed timing devices to one year.

Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Lycoming, says the change is common sense, because electronic timing devices are able to withstand longer calibration cycles.

“These devices are heavily relied upon by our police officers, and we need to do our part to ensure the laws on the books are consistent,” Wheeland said in prepared remarks.

Critics say the current 60-day requirement is sufficient. Extending the calibration cycle would likely result in more errors, they say. Additionally, opponents say uncalibrated speed-timing devices would result in an increased frequency of tickets being issued.

The bill’s next stop is the House Transportation Committee.

Additional legislation on speed enforcement

A related Senate-approved bill is in the House Transportation Committee. The bill, SB607, would authorize municipal police to use speed radar.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that prohibits municipal police from enforcing speed limits with radar.

The Pennsylvania State Police 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. Instead, the National Motorists Association and others say municipalities should post speeds following the 85th percentile formula – the speed at or below which 85 % of vehicles travel.

The bill 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. On an interstate highway with a posted speed of at least 70 mph, the ticket threshold would be 5 mph over the limit.

Revenue collected from speeding tickets could not exceed 20% of the municipal budget. Any amount in excess of 20% would be routed to the state’s Motor License Fund.

The fund pays for road and bridge improvements, as well as state police operations.

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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.