PA Local Police May Start Using Radar for Speeders

Speeding tickets may be in your future…..

Greg Rothman sat in a police cruiser, watching approaching traffic in the rear view mirror. When a passing car’s front tire touched one painted white line, Rothman quickly hit a toggle switch. Fractions of a second later, as the same tire crossed the next line, about 30 feet down, he tried to time a second flip of the switch, according to 

Local police officers outside Harrisburg had invited Rothman to the road — one where a speeding driver killed a woman walking her dog the previous year — to see how they tried to enforce speed limits.

“I thought, ‘This is absurd,’ ” said Rothman, a Republican House member from Cumberland County. Before the exercise, he didn’t know there was one tool local police officers in Pennsylvania can’t use to catch speeders: radar guns.

The state is the only one nationwide that bans municipal police officers from using radar to enforce speed limits. For the last 57 years, Pennsylvania has reserved that technology for state troopers.

Being able to use radar “would be a tremendous benefit,” said Scott Bohn, West Chester Borough’s police chief and president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. “With the increase in vehicular traffic, specifically here in the southeast where there’s a tremendous amount of growth, there’s a daily request for traffic assessments and studies and speed enforcement on our roadways.”

More than 50 years after the police chiefs association listed getting radar as a top priority, a bill allowing municipal police to use the technology has gotten farther than ever in the state legislature. But long-standing objections — including that police will use radar in speed traps to make money. Since 2014, Pennsylvania troopers have written more than 650,000 speeding tickets — which typically carry fines and fees of more than $150. Troopers clocked drivers with radar in 93 percent of those cases.

Supporters argue that giving radar to local police will slow down drivers and save lives. Police say the technology will reduce opportunities for human and mechanical error when recording drivers’ speeds, allow speed enforcement on roads not suited to other methods, and enable officers to identify speeders without having to traipse into roadways to set up their traps or leave expensive equipment behind to pursue and apprehend them.

Those other methods “are not as accurate or efficient as radar,” said Thomas Gross, executive director of the police chiefs association, who said the ban on local radar use is “inexplicable.”

Though differences in training requirements for troopers and local officers may once have explained why legislators wrote the law, “those differences have long since disappeared,” said Gross, a police chief for nearly half of his 42 years in law enforcement.

Other statewide groups that banded together a few years ago to advocate for local radar use include the Fraternal Order of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, and the Pennsylvania State Mayors’ Association.

Residents don’t generally complain at their local government meetings that people are driving too slowly in their towns, mayors said. Thirty percent of fatal crashes of speeding passenger vehicles happen on local roads, according to a 2017 National Transportation Safety Board study. Speeding was a factor in more than 10,000 fatalities in 2016, or 27 percent, according to a 2018 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report.

“It couldn’t be more clear we need this tool in order to bring those numbers down on roads on which we have a responsibility,” said James Nowalk, president of the Pennsylvania State Mayors’ Association.

But the National Motorists Association says not so fast.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Michaelle Bond