BUTLER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE 28/ WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS) — Efforts are underway in Harrisburg to allow local police departments to use radar to enforce speed limits.
Local police departments may soon be able to use radar to enforce speed limits. That’s if legislation moving in Harrisburg makes it to the governor’s desk. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation in which municipal police departments cannot use radar.
No doubt a familiar sight for many drivers, a radar gun sticking out of the window of a state police cruiser, marked or unmarked along the highway. the key words here a state police cruiser.
You will not see a radar gun in the hands of local police officers. That may soon change. The senate just passed legislation and sent it to the State House that will allow local officers to use radar. The I-Team spent time Friday with Butler Township police chief William Feissner as he conducted speed enforcement on Route 309 near Hazleton. He, like other local officers, use devices such as VASCAR or a stop watch to time vehicles between two stationary points such as white lines on the highway to measure speed. But Feissner says radar is more accurate and allows officers to conduct speed enforcement much easier and safer on roads that are more isolated.
“We have been inundated with speeding complaints and a lot of those complaints are in areas where we are not able to use VASCAR. It’s not an effective tool in those areas,” Chief Feissner explained.
Feissner says they often use radar speed signs to warn drivers about their speed but can’t use radar to enforce the speed limit.
“In the past five years in Butler Township we investigated almost 900 accidents but we issued 3,000 citations. It’s not like we’re not out there doing it. We just need radar for an additional tool to protect our citizens,” he said.
State lawmakers say the biggest road block to passing radar legislation is… “Folks have been concerned whether this would be used as revenue tool for local municipalities, speed traps if you will. That’s not allowed under the bill. There’s a cap on the revenue. This is about public safety,” said Senator John Yudichak (I) of Pennsylvania’s 14th District.
Some lawmakers blame it on political game playing in Harrisburg.
“Well, unfortunately Pennsylvania sometimes is slow on change. This is one of those issues people got stuck in a certain way,” said State Representative Tarah Toohil (R) of the 116th District.
But drivers we spoke with say that has to change.
“At this point in time I think Pennsylvania has to get on the wagon with other states and go with radar to reduce speeds. The speeds are unbelievable. People just don’t care,” said Gerald Feissner.
The senate approved the legislation and it is now in the House Transportation Committee. A spokesperson for the governor as well as the state police say they support the use of radar by local police departments.
Lawmakers and officials in law enforcement say the issue has been debated long enough and they are confident it will become a reality this year.