Radar is acknowledged by law enforcement personnel as the safest, most accurate and efficient speed timing device. Despite this fact, Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that does not allow for the local use of radar. As a result, speeding on neighborhood roads is consistently the most common concern voiced by our constituents.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its 2020 annual traffic crash data. Sadly, over 11, 000 people were killed in speed-related crashes nationwide. Crashes on local roads accounted for 87% of fatalities. Here in Pennsylvania, 1,129 people died in vehicle crashes. Of those fatalities, 459 were speed-related, making up 41% of all traffic fatalities in the Commonwealth. These figures would normally cause concern, but in a year that saw motorists driving significantly less due to the pandemic, it makes these statistics even more troubling. Local use of radar would help to curtail these preventable losses of life.
In addition to the high number of speed-related fatalities, the non-radar speed timing devices and technology used by local police are becoming more and more obsolete. There are only three PennDOT approved non-radar technologies available to municipal police, one being a stop watch. Companies producing these devices are going out of business or ceasing production, as there is very little demand for these products outside of Pennsylvania. Additionally, many non-radar speed timing devices are not compatible with the computer systems in new police vehicle models.
If the General Assembly does not act now, a stop watch may soon be the only speed timing device available to our local police officers. This very unsettling development has and will continue to hinder local law enforcement operations within across the Commonwealth and further endanger public safety.
Senate Bill 459 Summary
Senate Bill 459, introduced by Senator Greg Rothman, provides for local use of radar. As in prior sessions, a municipality must adopt an ordinance to use radar and officers must complete an approved training course.
Officers would be able to enforce speed using radar from or adjacent to a clearly marked vehicle that is visible to those driving. A minimum of four official signs warning drivers of local police radar enforcement would need to be installed along the main roads within 500 feet of municipal borders. During the first 90 days of radar enforcement, individuals pulled over for speeding would only receive a written warning.
The bill would further provide for speed enforcement restrictions, including the prohibition of points on a driver’s license, the prohibition to ticket unless a motorist is traveling 10 MPH or more over the speed limit and 6 MPH or more over in a school zone, and the prohibition of using radar in the immediate area (500 feet) of a sign decreasing the posted speed.
Under the bill, the municipal share of revenue generated from the use of radar may not exceed one percent of what a municipality received in the prior year. Funds in excess of the one percent would be remitted to the Motor License Fund.
House Bill 1368 Summary
House Bill 1368, introduced by Representative Kyle Donahue, is very similar to SB 459. However, it also includes language requiring reporting by officers in police departments with 100 officers or more when they issue citations under this legislation. Officers would be required to report the reason for the stop; the date, time and location of the stop; the perceived race and ethnicity of the driver; the perceived gender and age of the driver; whether a search was initiated; the results of any search; whether the stop resulted in a warning, citation, arrest or other action; and the badge number of the officer initiating the stop. The same police departments shall maintain and report the information to the Administrative Office of the PA Courts.