The 1 Tool Local Pa. Cops Can’t Use but State Troopers Can, for Now

Local Pennsylvania police officers use an antiquated method for catching speeding motorists. In towns and cities across the state, officers time how long it takes from a car’s front tire to travel between two white lines which have been painted on the road for this exact purpose. The practice is difficult fraught with human error.

But they don’t have a choice. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that bans municipal officers from using radar guns — even though state troopers can (and do) use them to catch speeders. It’s been more than 50 years since the police chiefs association began petitioning for the right to use radar, and so far their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. But that might all be about to change.

Local police want the right to use radar

For now, only Pennsylvania State Police can use radar in the state. | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Scott Bohn, West Chester Borough’s police chief and president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association told philly.com that he supports the new bill wholeheartedly. “With the increase in vehicular traffic, specifically here in the southeast where there’s a tremendous amount of growth, there’s a daily request for traffic assessments and studies and speed enforcement on our roadways,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania state troopers have issued 650,000 speeding tickets in the last four years and used radar in 93% of those instances.

The old school method of counting the time between lines just isn’t as efficient or accurate as radar. That’s why the local forces have been clamoring to get authorization to use radar to catch speeders for years.

The real reason the law was written in the first place isn’t true anymore

Originally, legislators banned radar for the local Pennsylvania police forces because it would have cost too much to train them to use it. But in modern times, that logic seems silly. Executive director of the police chiefs association called the ban, “inexplicable.”

Several statewide groups have banded together in hopes of getting the ban lifting and reducing the number of speed-related incidents.

Not everyone wants police to have radar.

Drivers’ groups don’t want to see the law changed. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

But there are some people who don’t believe they should be able to use radar. James Walker is president of the National Motorists Association, an organization that was founded in 1982 to help uphold the rights of drivers. Walker claims that many posted speed limits are set below the flow of traffic and that expecting drivers to adhere to them is unrealistic.

Walker argues that road conditions and other details often favor heavily into crash statistics and that most people don’t get into accidents from speeding alone.

It all comes down to money

The National Motorists Association members aren’t the only critics. Considering that a speeding violation comes with a minimum fine of $35 and usually costs much more than that, some people believe that making the roads safer isn’t the main goal. They say it’s just a ploy to get more money for the state, counties, and municipalities who all split the fines.

The bill might finally pass

Welcome to Pennsylvania road sign

Welcome to Pennsylvania road sign | benkrut/iStock/Getty Images

The proposed bill has made it farther than any previous efforts and is now just awaiting official approval. While it was once believed that Pennsylvania state troopers opposed the idea, now they’re publicly on board.

Besides just making a provision for radar use, the bill proposes that officers only issue tickets to motorists going faster than 10 miles over the speed limit. It also contains a clause stipulating that warning signs be posted to alert motorists of the change.

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