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Bill Would Allow Local Police to Use Radar to Monitor Speed

Forty-nine states in the nation permit their local police departments to use radar to monitor traffic speed, but Pennsylvania is not one of them.

State police are allowed to use the devices in the commonwealth, and a new bill could enable local departments to do so, too.

Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne) said local police departments are stretched in terms of their resources and manpower and this could help.

“This allows a piece of technology that has been used for decades within our state police department, used by local departments across the country, allows our local departments here in Pennsylvania to use that technology to save lives,” Yudichak said.

Local police currently use stopwatches or devices such as Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder, or VASCAR, stationed along the street to monitor speed, but Yudichak said this is actually more expensive than radar.

“So what we’re forcing these local departments is more of a cost burden to them than radar would be,” Yudichak said. “And as the commonwealth partners with local departments, we’ll find a way to get them the tools they need to keep these roadways safe.”

State police have been using radar since 1961, and Commissioner Frank Noonan supports the legislation. "Giving the municipal police officers radar will save lives," he said in a statement.

However, opponents to the bill believe the radars could be used primarily to set up speed traps to bring funds into the departments through tickets.
Yudichak refuted that, saying the purpose of the legislation is safety, not money.

“There’s enough regulations within the law being proposed that they would not be able to use it simply as a revenue generation tool,” Yudichak said. “This is a tool to keep families safe, keep Pennsylvania safe on our highways.”

A provision in the legislation would limit the municipality's share of the revenue from speeding violations to $17.50 per ticket.

The bill is now in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.