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State Senate approves local police using radar to nab speeders

Mary Ann Thomas
| Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 4:42 p.m.
A Pennsylvania state trooper checks a motorist's speed with a radar gun along Route 28 near the Cheswick exit.
Tribune-Review file photo
A Pennsylvania state trooper checks a motorist's speed with a radar gun along Route 28 near the Cheswick exit.

The state Senate on Tuesday approved legislation that would allow local police departments to use radar for speed enforcement, according to the Senate Republican Committee.

The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, goes now to the state House for consideration.

State troopers have been the only police allowed to operate radar in the state since they began using it in 1962.

Pennsylvania is the only state that prohibits municipal police from using radar to catch speeders. Without radar, local police are limited to VASCAR, a system that times how long it takes a vehicle to pass between two marked points on the road.

The measure is supported by the state Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, state associations of boroughs, township commissioners, township supervisors and mayors, according to the Senate Republican Committee.

Opponents such as the National Motorists Association say expanding radar and lidar (laser) speed guns to municipal police would open the door for speed traps solely to increase municipal revenue.

“Many speed traps occur where the speed limits change,” said James Sikorski Jr., Pennsylvania advocate for the association, in an earlier interview with the Tribune-Review. “When a limit goes down, people may not immediately slow down. When it rises, people speed up slightly before they get to the sign. This stuff is predatory.”

Vulakovich, a former municipal police officer, said, “This measure is long overdue.

“Pennsylvania has not yet provided its law enforcement officers with radar technology that has been around since World War II,” he said. “It is well past time we provide our officers with this speed enforcement mechanism.”

The bill sets conditions, among them: Municipalities must post signs saying they are using radar; points won't be assigned to speeders caught traveling less than 10 mph over the speed limit, and municipalities must certify the accuracy of their radar equipment.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

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