A proposal to give local police a standard tool to enforce speed limits was defeated.
Only state police in Pennsylvania are authorized to use radar to determine when an individual is driving at an unsafe speed.
State Rep. Steven J. Santarsiero, D-Bucks,wants to change that law, but said his efforts -- to help local police keep Pennsylvania roads safe -- were thwarted by House Republicans earlier this week.
During a House debate on a bill that would make texting while driving a crime, Santarsiero offered an amendment that would let local police use radar when enforcing speed limits on local roads, according to a release from his office.
The Republicans defeated the amendment using a procedural motion made by Rep. Kathy Watson, R-Bucks, the release states. In her argument, Watson claimed that the amendment had nothing to do with traffic safety and should be ruled not germane.
"The Republican defeat of my amendment is greatly disappointing," Santarsiero said. "My amendment considers the protective interests of Pennsylvania citizens. Forty-nine other states already allow their local police to use radar. It's high time that we give local police departments the ability to use radar to calm traffic and protect citizens. Unfortunately, the Republicans thought differently."
Santarsiero said local police have long requested the use of radar to help make neighborhoods safer.
The tool would also provide greater efficiency to police departments, he said.
Earlier this year, Santarsiero introduced a bill (H.B. 1475) to accomplish those tasks.
"Today's amendment mirrored that bill," the release states. "The measure would allow radar use by full-time local officers who are employed by full-service police departments in first-, second-, second-A and third-class counties and who have undergone training that has been approved by both the Pennsylvania State Police and the Municipal Officers’ Education and Training Commission."
Under the bill, each local governing body would adopt an ordinance before the use of such devices and signs must be erected 500 feet outside the boundary of a political subdivision to notify motorists of the use of radar.
Although Republicans opposed the amendment, Santarsiero said he will keep working to see the measure enacted.
Vote Would Make PA Local Police Last In U.S. To Use Radar
Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that won’t allow municipal police to use radar for speed enforcement. A vote Sunday night could change that.
- By Teresa McMinn
- June 24, 2011
Antiquated methods aren't the best when it comes to catching speeders in boroughs such as Pottstown.
Road configurations in smaller Pennsylvania towns are dense and don’t always allow for effective speed enforcement systems including the old white line across the road practice, said F. Richard Drumheller, captain of police for Pottstown's police department.
But local officers are limited. Unlike every other state in the country, Pennsylvania does not permit municipal police to use radar. For several decades, the use of radar has been limited to state troopers.
“We use speed timing devices,” Drumheller said of methods that incorporate a measure of distance to determine speed.
The other 49 states seem to think it’s reasonable for local police to use radar, so why is Pa. different, he said.
“We are the only state . . . not given that tool," Drumheller said.
Proposed laws to bring local police, well, up to speed have been unsuccessful for years.
But that could change on Sunday.
Rep. Steven Santarsiero, D-Bucks, and Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, lead a bipartisan move to pass HB1475, which would permit local police to use radar.
On Friday, Santarsiero said he’s never understood why anyone would oppose such a measure.
“It would have a considerable impact on . . . traffic safety in our towns and cities,” he said.
Under the bill, “Electronic devices such as radio-microwave devices (commonly referred to as electronic speed meters or RADAR) or infrared laser light devices (commonly referred to as LIDAR) may be used . . . upon completion of a training course approved by the Pennsylvania State Police and the Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission, by full-time police officers employed by the full-service police department of a political subdivision or regional police department . . . ”
Santarsiero said he filed the bill as an amendment to a distracted driving bill scheduled for second consideration, which could allow for vote on HB 1475 on Sunday.
“At the very least I think it will move it forward as an issue,” he said. “This deals with the same topic . . . traffic safety.”