AAA seeks curbs if local police get radar guns


HARRISBURG, Pa. — If Pennsylvania allows local police to use radar guns to snare speeders, AAA wants some safeguards in place to make sure they are used to increase road safety and not municipal budgets.

Jim Lardear, director of public and government affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic, testified before the state House Transportation Committee on Thursday that the auto association believes visible traffic enforcement is the most effective deterrent of speeding.

“We recognize the role that radar and other electronic enforcement can play in improving safety for motorists, pedestrians and other road users by improving compliance with red lights, speed limits and other traffic control devices,” Lardear said at the hearing held in the Poconos, according to a AAA news release.

That’s been a central concern since state lawmakers have again suggested Pennsylvania end its run as the only state that doesn’t allow local municipalities to use radar.

AAA recommended the legislation should allow only half of the proceeds from fines to hit local government coffers, with the rest going into the state’s Motor License Fund.

Motorists should also have to exceed the speed limit by at least 10 m.p.h. to be convicted, while signs notifying drivers of the use of radar should be posted within 500 feet of the municipal borders, AAA suggested. Local governments should also have to adopt an ordinance authorizing the use of radar, the association said.

And finally, legislation should require that local officers complete Pennsylvania State Police-approved training to operate radar, AAA said.

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich, (R., Allegheny), has introduced a bill that would allow all departments to use the tool. State Rep. Mario Scavello, (R., Monroe), hosted the committee meeting and has also introduced a bill to change the law. So has state Rep. Harry Readshaw, (D., Allegheny).

The proposal has drawn support from groups representing Pennsylvania’s police chiefs, mayors, township supervisors and boroughs. They’ve formed a Radar Coalition, and argued the push for radar is about safety, not revenue.

Supporters of the legislation have pointed out police are trusted with firearms -- but not radar guns. That leaves them with archaic tools, such as using a stopwatch to time a car moving between two white lines.

“To help curb speeding in our communities, our police need the most cost-effective and time-effective tools available,” Elizabethtown Mayor Chuck Mummert said in a news release from the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs. “Radar is acknowledged by law enforcement personnel to be the safest, most accurate, and most economical speed-timing device.”

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at  Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

The Pennsylvania Independent is a public interest journalism project dedicated to promoting open, transparent, and accountable state government by reporting on the activities of agencies, bureaucracies, and politicians in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a libertarian nonprofit organization.