Pennsylvania Senate approves local speed radar use, again

July 3, 2019

Keith Goble


The Pennsylvania Senate has again voted to authorize speed radar use by municipal police.

In 2017, Senators voted in favor of nearly identical legislation. The bill, however, failed to win support in the House of Representatives. The renewed effort has been forwarded to the House on a 49-1 Senate vote.

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.

Legislation from Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, would change the state’s distinction. Specifically, SB607 would permit local police officers to use radar to catch 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; 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.

Scavello’s 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.

Scavello says the rule change is long overdue.

“Only the State Police are currently authorized to use radar,” Scavello said in prepared remarks. “It makes no sense that the state allows municipalities to use red-light cameras to curtail unsafe driving, but does not allow the use of this World War II era technology.”

The bill awaits consideration in the House Transportation Committee. The House version of the bill, HB1686, also is in the House Transportation Committee.

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