PA Bill Would Let Cops Use Radar to Capture Speeders

We’re the only state that doesn’t currently do so.

This is not happening in Pennsylvania.

This is not happening in Pennsylvania.

Here’s good news if you’re a speeder: Pennsylvania does’t do that much to slow you down —we’re the only state in the nation that doesn’t let local police use radar guns to capture speeders. (No, we didn’t know that either.)

Here’s the bad news for everybody else: Lots of people die in speed-related accidents. PennLive reports that the state saw 615 speed-related fatalities in 2012 — more than double the national average. (The report doesn’t say if that figure takes into account that Pennsylvania is one of the higher-population states. Still: That’s a lot.)


So legislators are considering — again — letting law enforcement officials in this state do what every other state does, and let officers use technology to deter and capture speeding motorists. (See the bill.)

Over at the Keystone Politics blog, Jon Geeting makes the case for the bill: "Catching more speeders will send a message, and it also raises more revenue, that’s even better. I’d much rather collect more money from people who break our traffic laws and endanger children than from sales and income taxes on ordinary working people. Nabbing more speeders and forestalling more local sales and income tax increases would be a win-win."

But the bill is having a hard time attracting support in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Why? "Most of them think it's going to be Barney Fife out there with a radar gun," said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty. There is also, apparently, the concern that small towns would turn speed limits into gold mines, slapping a fine on every out-of-towner who missed the speed limit signs on the edge of town. 

But the Pennsylvania State Mayors' Association says that scenario is unlikely to play out: " The notion that municipalities will use radar to raise revenue is an unfounded concern that has little basis in municipal reality," the association says on its Radar Coalition page.

Despite this week's activity, it will be awhile before a vote is taken. Rafferty said he expected to work through the summer lining up votes. (PennLive)

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  • Philip

    I’m glad the article points out the use of raw numbers instead of rates to justify the bill. A search on the internet for traffic fatalities per capita or per million miles traveled will show that Pennsylvania is not unusually dangerous by comparison. I’m not saying cops shouldn’t get to use radar guns, but the purposeful selection of statistics is funny.

  • phillysportsfan

    so how do they determine your speed when they pull you over for speeding?

    • Matt

      The time how quickly a car travels between two painted lines on a road.

  • Adam

    Another blatantly missing fact: state police can and do use radar. It’s just local police who cannot. So if you’re on a state road in PA (i.e. basically any highway) the cops there are using radar. This is just a cash grab to make it easier for municipalities to give tickets for someone going 33 in a 25, or some other perfectly safe and reasonable speed.

  • Matt

    Joel, Do you know how many of those 615 speed related fatalities were on local roads vs state roads/highways? As Adam correctly points out, state troopers are allowed to, and do use radar guns to catch speeders.

    I can see why they are having trouble getting traction for this bill. The pros seem to contradict one another. This bill can raise revenue and potentially keep taxes at their current levels, but it is unlikely that local municipalities will use speed limits as gold mines.