Three Pennsylvania bills seek local speed radar use

April 23, 2019

Keith Goble


Multiple efforts underway at the Pennsylvania statehouse would authorize speed radar use by local police.

In 2017, Senators voted in favor of nearly identical legislation. The bill failed to win support in the House.

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.

One Senate bill would change the state’s distinction. Sponsored by Sen. Steven Santarsiero, D-Bucks, SB406 would allow local police officers to use radar to nab speeders.

A similar effort in the House, HB1275, would limit use of radar to full-time officers of a full-service police department.

One more House bill, HB352, would authorize local police to use radar as part of a six-year pilot program. There is no distinction included in the bill to limit use of radar to full-time officers of a full-service agency.

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, but 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, they say municipalities should posted speeds following the 85th percentile formula – the speed at or below which 85% of vehicles travel.

Santarsiero’s bill and HB352 include a requirement for municipalities to first pass an ordinance allowing the use of radar. Points would only be assigned to an offender’s license if the speed recorded is at least 10 miles over the posted speed limit.

SB406 specifies revenue from speeding tickets that exceeds 5 percent of the total municipal budget, or 20 percent of the regional police department budget, would be given to the state troopers.

Santarsiero said the rule change is long overdue.

“For the last 58 years, Pennsylvania has reserved radar technology for state troopers,” Santarsiero wrote in a memo to Senate lawmakers. He added that it is time to “ensure local law enforcement has the same access to the most reliable speed-timing devices in use today.”

HB1275 does not require an ordinance to be approved for the use of radar. Violators must be exceeding the posted speed by at least 10 mph to be ticketed. A 120-day warning period is also included.

The bills are in their respective chambers transportation committee.