HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) – Pennsylvania is the only state in the country where municipal police are unable to use radar technology to enforce speed limits.
Local police departments, township and city officials, and some state lawmakers have been trying to change that for years.
“We need this bill to pass,” said Chief Douglas Grimes of the Peters Township Police Department, just southwest of Pittsburgh. “Almost every week I receive phone calls, emails, personal conversations from my public in the community, asking for us to do a better job, a more efficient job of enforcing speeding in the municipality,” he added.
Grimes says local police departments are in desperate need of updated speed enforcement technology.
“The problem with that device is, you have to set it up on the side of the road, so the officer is risking his own safety to set it up. It has to be calculated to ensure that it’s operating properly. And then, if you operate it with a single officer, when a car comes through that violates the speed, and he goes after that car, you’re leaving a $5,000-plus device sitting alongside of the road for a period of time, unattended,” said Grimes, who also spoke about the decreasing effectiveness of stopwatch speed traps, often times marked on roadways by white lines.
“People quite frequently will speed up to that point, slow down between those points and defeat the whole premise of the traffic enforcement measures,” said Grimes. “Radar would overcome all of that,” he added.
Currently in Pennsylvania, only the State Police are allowed to utilize radar technology to enforce speed limits. However, HB 606 would give local authorities the ability to use that same radar technology on local roadways.
“We have been bringing this case to these steps repeatedly and the time to act is now,” said Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace. “We know that the public is behind this bill. We know that our communities are asking us every day, what are we doing to slow down drivers and make our communities safer,” she added.
Sorace also serves as President of the Pennsylvania Municipal League, one of the several organizations that have been advocating for radar use for years.
Sorace hopes today is the last time she’ll be advocating for municipal radar use on the steps of the Capitol.
“House Bill 606 is on the cusp of getting out for another vote,” said Sorace.
The bill received second consideration in the House in March of 2021. Since then, it has sat in the House Appropriations Committee.
Opponents to the bill argue it’s a “revenue grab” by local governments, but the Pennsylvania Radar Coalition disagrees, calling it a “Public Safety Measure.”
In 2020, 40 percent of the total 1,129 accident fatalities were speeding related, according to data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.
The PA Radar Coalition says local governments would only receive about $17 to $21 per speeding ticket. The bill also includes a provision preventing a local government’s share of the radar revenue generated from exceeding ten percent of the municipality’s annual budget. The provision is one of many in HB 606. According to coalition:
- In order to use a radar, a municipality must adopt an ordinance authorizing its use within its boundaries;
- A municipality must install four or more official signs within 500 feet of its borders on four or more highways entering the municipality that indicate radar is in use;
- Law enforcement officers must complete a required training course approved by the State Police and Municipal Officer’s Education and Training Commission in order to use radar;
- Law enforcement must utilize radar from a stationary point located within, or directly adjacent to, a clearly marked law enforcement vehicle in a location that is readily visible to motorists;
- A speeding motorist must be traveling at least ten miles per hour over the speed limit where the speed limit is less than 55 miles per hour and at least six miles over the speed limit where its 55 miles per hour or higher (except in a school or work zone);
- A speeding motorist must be at least 500 feet beyond a speed limit sign indicating a decrease of speed (except school zone, bridge and elevated structure, hazardous grade, or work zone speed limits);
- During the initial 90 days of speed enforcement using radar, an individual may only be sanctioned for violations with a written warning;
- A municipality’s share of revenue generated from the use of an electronic ranging device, or radar, in a calendar year may not exceed 10 percent of the municipality’s budget for that year. Excess revenue shall be remitted to PennDOT for deposit in the Motor License Fund.