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Hit the brakes: Pa. police departments push for radar to catch speeding drivers

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow local police departments to use radar guns to catch speeding drivers.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the country that doesn’t allow local police departments to use radar guns to catch speeding drivers. 

A group of public officials and law enforcements groups are rallying today at the State Capitol to expand radar use.

Currently under Pennsylvania law, Pennsylvania State Police are the only law enforcement agency in the state allowed to use “electronic devices such as radio-microwave devices, commonly referred to as electronic speed meters or radar… only as part of an automated speed enforcement system.”

House Bill 606 would open radar usage to local police departments as well. Proponents of the bill describe a “perfect storm” of factors affecting road safety.

First, speeding fatalities are up 5 percent nationally from 2020 to 2021, according to data from the National Highway Association. Pennsylvania already had the third most speeding deaths in the country, according to a study by Value Penguin, an insurance company.

Second, police departments have been forced to use old technology to monitor driving speed, such as the VASCAR device invented in 1966. Since newer equipment has since replaced most demand for these devices, parts are now harder to find and more expensive.

“It doesn’t make any sense for municipal police not to be able to use what is probably the most accurate, less expensive speed-timing device,” said Jim Nowalk, mayor of Whitehall Township and president of the Pennsylvania State Mayors Association.

HB 606 has been sitting in committee for more than a year. Nowalk is one of the speakers leading a rally Thursday morning to encourage lawmakers to move the bill forward before the current legislative session ends in less than a month.

“No one has ever come into a council meeting and said, ‘You’re enforcing the speed too much,’” he said. “But many people have come in and said, ‘They’re speeding on my street. I’m concerned about my children.’ The general populace is concerned about speeding and they want it to be controlled.”

Other groups supporting the bill include the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Commissioners and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

Opponents such as the National Motorists Association have come out against the bill, saying it would lead to more speed traps and unnecessary traffic tickets.

The rally begins at 9 a.m. on the Capitol steps.

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