Pa. police departments hoping for permission to use speed radar


HERMITAGE, Pa. (WYTV) – None of Pennsylvania’s local police departments are permitted to use radar to enforce speed limits but that could soon change.

For a second straight year, the Pennsylvania Senate passed the bill that would allow municipal police departments to use radar to catch speeders.

Right now, Pennsylvania State Police are the only ones allowed to use the devices in the state. But as this bill heads to the House, local departments are hoping it passes.

“It’s long overdue,” said Hermitage Police Chief Eric Jewell.

Local law enforcement officials have been asking to use radar for years.

“Radar is much more durable. It’s user-friendly and it’s just all around way more efficient,” Jewell said.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow local police to use this technology. The departments use something called VASCAR, which times a vehicle’s speed.

“It’s a system that takes two or three guys to run. It sits alongside the road. Whenever a cruiser is chasing a speeder or something, then it’s sitting by itself,” said Hermitage Police Corporal Chad Nych. “It’s been stolen in the past while we’ve been gone so the radar is going to eliminate two or three officers running it. A lot less setup.”

Along with being easier to use, police say radar will allow them to set up in smaller nooks and crannies where speed is a problem.

“If everybody was compliant with speed laws, we wouldn’t need any of this but every once in awhile, somebody is late for work or not paying attention or deliberately speeding for whatever reason,” Jewell said. “The increased speeds can cause accidents and we want to use the most effective tool available to law enforcement to help keep our streets safe.”

Officials believe one of the reasons why this bill hasn’t gained traction in past has to do with fears that local police will use it as a money generator.

“What the state legislators decide, where the money goes, and to whom, and the how much — I don’t care,” Jewell said. “I only care about safety out on our roadways for our pedestrians, for our other motorists, for our children. It’s about safety.”

In the eyes of the Hermitage Police Department, this technology would not only crack down on speeding but keep officers safer as well.

“This stuff is bulky, it’s awkward, it gets damaged easily, which throws off the calibration certifications and then we have to repair it, which is more costs,” Jewell said.

Still, some believe radar isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Advocates for the National Motorists Association say studies show radar is prone to operator error and can result in police issuing tickets to the wrong vehicle if multiple cars are in the same area.

Even if it becomes law, local governments would still have to give their approval to using radar.

Signs would have to be posted, warning about the use of radar. Drivers would not be convicted if their speed is less than 10 miles over the speed limit.