THE RADAR COALITION

A "Coalition to Eliminate the Prohibition Against Municipal Police Using Radar" has been formed among the major law enforcement and municipal associations affected by this legislative prohibition. The associations participating in this coalition are: the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania Association of Township Commissioners, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and the Pennsylvania State Mayors' Association. The Coalition anticipates that other non- governmental organizations concerned about public safety on Pennsylvania's highways will be joining the Coalition.

The focus of the Coalition is to change one sentence in Section 3368 (c),(2) of the Motor Vehicle Code. That sentence currently reads:

[E]lectronic devices such as radio-microwave devices (commonly referred to as electronic speed meters or radar) may be used only by members of the Pennsylvania State Police.
For reasons which follow, Section 3368 (c),(2) should read:

[E]lectronic devices such as radio-microwave devices (commonly referred to as electronic speed meters or radar) may be used by any police officer.

The reasons for making this change are many and include these eleven:

1. Pennsylvania is the only state in the United States of America that does not allow its municipal police to use radar. Click here to read the Memorandum of Rick Koch, the PSMA's legal intern on the "The Use of RADAR by Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers." His research proves without a doubt that Pennsylvania is the only state in the United States of America that does not allow its municipal police to use radar.

2. The maximum speed limits in over two-thirds of all of the municipalities in Pennsylvania are presently being enforced using radar because those municipalities are patrolled by the Pennsylvania State Police. To be more specific, the Pennsylvania State Police enforce the maximum speed laws in 1,714 of the 2,562 municipalities of Pennsylvania.

3. Because Pennsylvania law allows motorists to travel faster in municipalities where radar is prohibited from being used and because the curvatures and slopes of roadways limit the locations where speed can be enforced by means other than radar, there is an unequal enforcement of the maximum speed laws in Pennsylvania. Unequal enforcement of the maximum speed laws is in direct conflict with the spirit, if not the letter, of Section 103 of the "Motor Vehicle Code" entitled "Uniformity of Interpretation." It reads: "This title shall be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purpose to make uniform the law throughout this Commonwealth and all political subdivisions."

4. Radar is acknowledged by law enforcement personnel to be the safest, most accurate, and most economical speed-timing device.

5. The notion that municipalities will use radar to raise revenue is an unfounded concern that has little basis in municipal reality. Among other reasons, the cost of enforcing the maximum speed limits is high relative to the revenue received by the municipality from the issuance of a citation. Click here to read the analysis entitled "Debunking the Notion That Municipal Police Would Use Radar to Raise Municipal Revenues" which addressed this unfounded concern in detail.

6. Prohibiting municipal police officers from using a radar gun when those same officers are permitted to use a 40 caliber Glock or a taser is illogical and absurd.

7. For most mayors, the number of times that residents have demanded enforcement of maximum speed laws far outnumbers the complaints, if any, that traffic enforcement has been too aggressive. In support of this proposition, when the business community of Shamokin Dam Borough in Snyder County was asked to rate the importance of various proposals for improving their community, the highest rated proposal was "aggressive enforcement of the traffic laws on Routes 11 & 15." Click here to read to the "Media Release from Shamokin Dam Borough" and here to peruse the "Economic Development Survey of Shamokin Dam Borough - August/ September 2012."

8. The multiple restrictions in the Motor Vehicle Code on the use of radar as a speed-timing device would be applicable to municipal police in the same way that they currently apply to the Pennsylvania State Police. For instance, "no person may be convicted upon evidence obtained through the use of [radar] unless the speed recorded is six or more miles per hour in excess of the legal speed limit." Click here to read all of the restrictions applicable to the Pennsylvania State Police when they use radar to enforce Pennsylvania's maximum speed laws.

9. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, speeding is a safety problem. As one example, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that in 2010, a total of 10,395 deaths, or nearly one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities, occurred in speed-related crashes. Click here to be connected to the Insurance Institute's website where it discusses this issue in depth.

10. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania enacted Subchapter F of the Motor Vehicle Code entitled "Speed Restrictions" which includes Section 3362 entitled "Maximum Speed Limits" to protect the public from the dangers of speeding, as a matter of public policy. To specifically legislate that municipal police are restricted in their enforcement of these public safety laws when the State Police, who are enforcing the exact same laws, are not so restricted is an indefensible contradiction in public policy. Public safety should not be compromised in the absence of a compelling reason. The type of uniform a police officer is wearing is not such a reason. Click here to read Section 3362 of the "Motor Vehicle Code" in its entirety.

11.  The latest statistics on speeding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal the human cost of a public policy which hinders law enforcement officers from enforcing the maximum speed laws.  Click here to read the NHTSA’s “Traffic Safety Facts” published in April 2013 based upon 2011 data.   In 2011, Pennsylvania had the 3rd highest number of speeding fatalities and the 2nd highest percentage of speeding fatalities to total fatalities in the nation.  The numbers of speeding fatalities on roadways where police are prohibited from using radar were 3 to 6 times higher than the number of speeding fatalities on roadways where police are allowed to use radar.  It is a fact that in order for Pennsylvania to bring its percentage of speeding fatalities to total fatalities under the national average, 318 fewer speed-related fatalities, almost one per day would need to be prevented.  Click here for more details.  Pennsylvanians simply cannot live with a public policy that results in high numbers of traffic fatalities and unspecified physical injuries and property damage.

The Radar Coalition has drafted a bill to amend Section 3368 (c),(2) of the Motor Vehicle Code to give municipal police the option of using radar to enforce the maximum speed limits established by the General Assembly. Senator Randy Vulakovich has introduced the Radar Coalition’s bill in the Senate along with 15 bi-partisan co-sponsors. Click here to read Senate Bill1340. Representative Harry Readshaw has introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives along with 15 bipartisan co-sponsors. Click here to read House Bill1272.

Please contact your State Senator and State Representative and urge them to support Senate Bill 1340 and House Bill 1272. See the tab Municipal & Other Radar Resolutions for all of the municipalities and other organizations who have adopted resolutions in support of these Bills.