Pennsylvania House committee backs local speed radar use

June 11, 2018

Keith Goble


Authorization for speed radar use by some local police in Pennsylvania has taken one step closer to becoming reality.

Pennsylvania 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.

The House Transportation Committee voted 22-2 to advance an amended bill to change the state’s distinction. The revised measure would permit certain local police departments to use radar to nab speeders.

Specifically, the bill would limit speed radar use to full-time, accredited police departments. The distinction would limit the use to 117 of the approximately 1,075 local police departments throughout the state.

The Senate voted 46-3 late last year to approve a similar version.

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. However, local police departments have not been permitted to use the enforcement tool.

Advocates also highlight figures provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration one year ago that show the Keystone State ranks fourth nationally in road deaths blamed on excessive speed.

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.

Other changes made to the bill include authorizing the devices as part of a six-year pilot program. Traffic studies would also be used to determine whether posted speeds are appropriate. In addition, revenue generated by speeding tickets would be limited to no more than 1 percent of the municipal budget.

Provisions included in the original version and that remain in the amended version include a requirement for municipalities to first pass an ordinance allowing the use of radar. Vehicle speed recorded also must be at least 10 miles over the posted speed limit to be in violation.

SB251 awaits further consideration on the House floor. If passed there, the bill would head back to the Senate for approval of changes before it could move to the governor’s desk.

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