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Municipal radar may be coming to a road near you

Pennsylvania has the dubious distinction of being the only state in the nation that does not permit municipal law enforcement agencies to use radar.

A bill introduced by state Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe and Northampton, was approved in late June by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration. The vote was 49-1 with only Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, voting against it.

A similar bill was passed 49-1 in the Senate during the 2019-20 legislative session, but it died in the House of Representatives.

At first blush, it might seem like a no-brainer to allow local police to permit the use of this device, which our state police use routinely.

After all, this is hardly the first time that similar legislation has been introduced, but our legislators have until now been reluctant to give it the green light.

It has to do with the suspicion that municipalities will use it as a sort of speed trap to enhance their treasuries. If you are a driver, I don’t have to tell you how heavy-footed motorists in our area are.

Just for fun the other day, I drove 61 mph on a northern 55 mph stretch of I-80 in Carbon County for 4 miles. Forty-two vehicles passed me; I passed none.

“Even though speeding is the leading contributor to fatal crashes and 30% of fatal speeding crashes occur on local roads,” Scavello said, “Pennsylvania remains the only state to not permit the local use of this safety technology. The use of radar should be viewed as a driver protection which provides the most accurate tool for the enforcement of speed limits. This technology is much more efficient and effective than the dated technology of the past.”

So what is in Senate Bill 419?

Well, it prohibits convictions if the speed recorded is less than 10 mph over the speed limit where the posted limit is less than 70 mph.

To address the concern about municipalities using it as a fundraiser, the legislation sets a revenue cap on the amount of money a municipality may keep from speeding tickets at no more than 10% of its municipal budget.

Municipalities would have to adopt an ordinance before allowing police to use radar.

Finally, and this is a very important safeguard: It sets calibration standards for the use of radar guns.

Predicting that his proposed legislation would save lives, Scavello added, “Here in the 40th Senate District, we’ve seen at least 15 pedestrian deaths over the past 20 years where speed was a factor; just one is too many.”

While the legislation is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Pennsylvania Municipal League, Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners, Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and Pennsylvania State Mayors Association, it also has its detractors.

According to James Sikorski Jr., who represents the National Motorists Association, the reason a radar bill has never passed is because the motorists of Pennsylvania don’t want it.

“This is 100% being done for the revenue,” Sikorski said.

He also said that the legislation should include a requirement to ensure that speed limits are set appropriately by local governments and not lower than necessary in order to increase the likelihood that motorists will exceed the posted limits.

The idea of allowing municipal police departments to use radar as a significant tool against speeders has been kicking around for more than 40 years.

It’s time to arm local police with a time-tested preventive that is guaranteed to save lives, because speed kills.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.