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Speeders under the watchful eye of police

| Friday, July 24, 2015, 4:06 p.m.
Alex Felser/Trib Total Media
A motorist drives past a radar speed sign on Hilltop Road in Collier. Police in South Fayette and Carnegie use similar, mobile devices to monitor motorists' speeds.

When trying to complete a traffic study or deter speeding drivers, South Fayette police use a machine to help.

The township purchased a standalone electronic radar speed sign for $6,000 about nine months ago and place it on roads about three weeks out of every month.

“It's a good tool to persuade people to comply with the speed limits,” said Lt. Robert Kurta of the South Fayette Police Department. “It adds to the safety for all.”

Carnegie and Collier have similar devices.

“We mostly do it to advise motorists in the area they are traveling too fast,” said Carnegie police Chief Jeff Kennedy. “We then try to follow up and run (police stops).”

Kurta monitors the sign in South Fayette, which can be remotely accessed at all times from a computer application.

The sign can be set to do a number of functions, including display speed, record data with or without showing the speed to the motorist, and track whether a car slows down as it approaches the device.

“Just because there isn't a flashing speed showing doesn't mean it isn't working,” Kurta said.

By law, the device can't be used to issue a citation.

Most recently it was placed northbound on Washington Pike near Portman Farms in a 35-mph zone.

Over the nine-day period in early July, it recorded a total of 43,045 vehicles, or about 6,121 a day. Of them, 495 were driving 10 mph over the speed limit, which Kurta said is the typical speed that initiates a traffic stop. The top speed was 59 mph.

Kurta was satisfied with the numbers.

“That's really not too bad,” he said.

Despite the Washington Pike placement, the department usually places the sign around neighborhoods.

“One of the single biggest complaints of speeding cars is in neighborhoods,” said South Fayette police Chief John Phoennik.

The machine also has a camera that can be set to photograph a car if it is going past a pre-determined speed level. The camera can be activated remotely by police, and automatically activates as a guard against tampering if the sign is damaged or moved. “It's slick. The camera can instantly snap photos and catch surroundings and send them to us,” Kurta said.

Phoennik wants motorists to think one thing when they see it.

“Slow down. It was put there for a reason.”

Alex Felser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5810 or

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