Pennsylvania bills would authorize local speed radar use

August 6, 2021

Keith Goble


As fall approaches, Pennsylvania legislators soon will return to work to discuss topics that include opening the door for local police departments to use speed radar cameras.

Pennsylvania is the lone state to prohibit municipal police from enforcing speed limits with radar. Pennsylvania state troopers are allowed to use radar.

Senators early this summer voted nearly unanimously to approve legislation that would permit municipal police officers to use radar to ticket speeders. There are multiple bills at the statehouse on the issue.

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.

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

Ordinance required for use

The Senate-approved bill includes a requirement for municipalities to first pass an ordinance allowing the use of radar.

Sponsored by Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, SB419 would authorize local police to issue tickets only if the offending driving has a recorded speed at least 10 miles over the speed limit where the posted limit is below 70 mph.

Additionally, revenue collected from speeding tickets could not exceed 10% of a municipality’s annual budget. Any revenue raised exceeding the cap would go to the state.

Scavello has said pursuit of the rule change is about safety.

“Even though speeding is the leading contributor to fatal crashes and 30% of fatal speeding crashes occur on local roads, Pennsylvania remains the only state to not permit the local use of the safety technology,” Scavello said in previous remarks. “The use of radar should be viewed as a driver protection which provides the most accurate tool for the enforcement of speed limits.”

Critics question need

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

“There is no speeding epidemic –85% of drivers travel at the safest speeds on Pennsylvania’s roads, harming no one,” McCarey wrote. “Why use radar to ticket them at $170-plus a pop?”

Instead, he says 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.

Expanded authority for radar use

In addition to authorizing local police to use radar, SB419 would allow the Delaware River Port Authority or the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to use speed radar on a highway under their jurisdiction.

Scavello’s bill is in the House Transportation Committee. The House version, HB606, awaits consideration on the House floor.

The bills can be considered when legislators return to work next month.

Related speed radar efforts

Two more bills at the statehouse also cover speed radar use.

The first bill would limit use of radar to full-time officers of a full-service police department.

Sponsored by Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland, HB1212 would not require an ordinance to be approved for the use of radar. Violators must be found exceeding the posted speed by at least 10 mph to be ticketed. A 120-day warning period is included.

One more Senate bill would allow local police departments to use radar only after the locality adopts an ordinance permitting use of radar devices.

Sponsored by Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Lower Makefield, SB544 would route any revenue exceeding 10% to the State Police for “traffic safety purposes.”

Both bills are in their chamber’s transportation committee. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania.