Pennsylvania Senate Passes Bill Allowing Local Police To Use Radar To Check Speed

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A bill allowing municipal police across Pennsylvania to use radar guns to control speed was passed by the state Senate on Tuesday by 49 to 1 votes.

Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the country that limits the use of radar exclusively to its state police. This is a sore point for many city officials and police chiefs, who feel handicapped in monitoring speeding in residential areas and on local roads where speeding can really increase the risk of an accident.

But it is also a precious 60-year-old safeguard for some motorists. Critics fear that these same city officials will take advantage of the new tool to balance their budgets by issuing a lot of tickets.

Senator Mario Scavello’s bill contains cautious terms, which are now transferred to the State House for further consideration.

First, in an attempt to defuse long-standing concern about for-profit policing, the bill states that no municipality could receive more than 10 percent of its annual municipal budget from the local share of excess fines. speed. Any dollars received in excess of this cap would be returned to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, to help fund the recruitment and training of future Pennsylvania State Police Cadet classes.

Scavello, in R-Monroe County, would also require any municipality that wishes to use the radar to first pass an ordinance authorizing its use in that community and have agents certified for the use of the equipment. It should then post warning signs on all “main arteries” within its jurisdiction that the radar application is being used there, and for the first 90 days, only warnings could be issued.

The devices could not be operated within 500 feet of any sign indicating a reduction in a speed limit.

And finally, the bill changes the existing language of leeway by codifying that for any speeding ticket to be issued based on radar readings, the recorded violation must be at least 10 miles above the posted speed limit for the street or highway in question, or, on interstate highways with a posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour, at least six miles above that limit.

However, this latitude disappears in school or shift work zones.

Scavello said he believes the measure strikes the right balance between the desire of police chiefs and city officials to better enforce road safety in their towns and villages – which are much more likely to have foot traffic than the highways that the police patrol – and worry about abuse of power.

The issue has been discussed in many past legislative sessions, but has never been adopted.

Earlier this year, however, the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, the union representing members of the Pennsylvania State Police and generally a strong voice on public safety issues, supported a similar bill sponsored By Representative Greg Rothman, R-Camp Hill. Rothman’s bill was passed by the House transport committee this spring, but did not move forward.

It was not immediately clear whether the House would consider Scavello’s bill before shutting down for the summer later this month.

There is some continued opposition to bills from the National Motorists Association, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving driver rights.

In an alert issued to members of that organization about Rothman’s Bill this spring, the NMA noted that, according to PennDOT’s own tally, Pennsylvania road fatalities reached an all-time high in 2019, a development which happened without “the municipal police being able to use RADAR for predatory speed control.”

NMA member Thomas McCarey wrote that “arming city police with radar guns at this time… is evidence of a program to provide financial aid to radar commercial interests; provide financial assistance to municipal governments; and to provide financial assistance to the state.

According to PennDOT’s 2020 Crash Facts and Statistics report, 269 of the total 1,129 deaths reported by the state that year were listed as resulting from “speed-related” accidents or accidents where speeding. was considered the main contributing factor.

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