State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Plan would bring speed radar to local police agencies

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Apr 23, 2014 4:33 PM

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

A decades-long debate over enforcing local speed limits is about to resurface. Pennsylvania mayors and local police chiefs have banded together to form the "Radar Coalition."

Members united over their shared covetous feelings toward the radar guns used by state police to identify vehicles going over the speed limit. State law bans local police from using the same tool.

Jim Nowalk, mayor of Whitehall in Allegheny County, said his police officers tell him enforcing speeding laws on hills and curved roads is too difficult without radar.

"Our law enforcement officers need to tools to enable them to enforce the laws that the Legislature has enacted," Nowalk said. "The maximum speed laws are not our laws, they're the laws the General Assembly of Pennsylvania."

Tom King, chief of police in State College, said after 20 years, he says he's only heard one argument against allowing local use of radar. "What we hear through the grapevine and just anecdotally around communities or talking to legislators is, 'We don't want local law enforcement to abuse it,'" said King.

But he added that municipalities don't see speed limit enforcement as a cash cow, because of the costs of enforcement, and the diminishing returns that would result after issuing a rash of tickets.

"If you think you're going to be in the business of making money off of traffic citations, speeding or otherwise, you're wrong," said King.

A Senate plan to allow local police to use radar has just been introduced by Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny). A similar House plan introduced a year ago was never voted out of committee.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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Comments: 1

  • Peter_Puck img 2014-04-24 06:08

    There are many roads and highways in south-central PA, but not all, where the speed limits could be increased 5 or 10 MPH and improve the experiences of drivers safely without putting them at risk of being ticketed for exceeding the speed limit. There are long sections of roads where this applies. The roads are designed to be safe at higher speed limits, but these are artificially being suppressed by certain interests. This would go a long way to alleviate the traffic congestion and resulting frustration that is experienced by drivers on a daily basis. The traffic handling capacity of a roadway is directly proportional to its posted speed limit. I would urge those responsible for setting speed limits, to review this and gradually increase speed limits where situations warrant doing so. There are also some roadways where speed limit signage is lacking for many miles, especially after intersections, causing drivers to go too fast or too slow, making it unsafe for others. Attention to these matters by those responsible could improve the quality of life of those affected.

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