YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Local police in Pennsylvania may be permitted to use radar as a tool to enforce speed limits if two bills before the House and Senate are approved in some form.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the only state in the U.S. where local police cannot use radar to clock speeders. Currently, state police are the only authorities permitted to use the devices.
Both of the bills (House Bill 71 and Senate Bill 535) deal with electronic timing devices, specifically radar, and the use of them for clocking the speed of vehicles. One of them limits the use to municipalities with more than 210,000 people and the other has no population limit.
The measures were approved by the Senate Transportation Committee in Harrisburg this year, but there are no guarantees either one will make it to the governor’s desk.
“It has not been taken up by the full Senate yet. If it passes the Senate, it’ll come over to the House and be assigned to the transportation committee in the House,” said Representative Mark Longietti.
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts in the Legislature to lift the restrictions. Each time, they have been defeated, often never even getting out of committee.
However, leaders in communities like Farrell are hoping the latest effort will end differently.
“I’m hoping that they’ll see what we’re seeing, again, a tool to allow us to do our jobs better,” said city manager Michael Ceci.
Historically, there have been two key arguments against allowing local police to have radar. Ceci says one of those reasons is economic.
“I think a lot of state reps believed that it could just become a cash grab for local municipalities looking to make up holes in their budgets, that kind of thing.”
The other is that lawmakers were not convinced smaller departments had the expertise to use the equipment.
“With the significant training that local police must do, I don’t think that argument is valid anymore,” Longietti said.
Statewide, both the Pennsylvania League of Cities and the Mayor’s Association have endorsed the change and local leaders in Farrell have passed resolutions supporting it as well.
At this point, lawmakers say it’s still too early to know what will happen to the bills in Harrisburg.
In 2014, there were 121,317 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,195 people and injured another 79,758 people. Out of those fatal crashes, 312 were speed-related.