Write your Reps: Let PA police use radar

Did you know that forty-nine states allow local police officers to use radar guns to enforce speeding laws? And the state that’s holding out?: The commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

So began a 2014 BikePGH blog post.  Over two years later, Pennsylvania is still the only state in the nation which prohibits its police officers from using the most effective tools available to them to monitor and enforce speed laws.

We live in a city and people are (expected to be) all over the damn place.”  The speed limit in almost all of Lawrenceville, as in Oakland and most of the rest of the City’s surface streets, is 25 mph.  Yet, the actual speeds driven in much of the city are much higher.

Speeding is responsible for one-third of traffic fatalities for all users—10,000 lives each year. For pedestrians, speeding is especially hazardous: the risk of death increases exponentially with vehicle speed.”

State Senator Randy Vulakovich, whose district covers most of northern Allegheny County, has introduced a bill to finally allow Pennsylvania local police officers to use radar.  Senators Wayne Fontana (central Allegheny, including Lawrenceville) and Jay Costa (eastern Allegheny, incl. Bloomfield and Oakland) are co-sponsors.  Carrick’s Rep. Harry Readshaw has introduced a parallel bill in the House, but most Lawrenceville-area representatives including Ravenstahl (6th Ward, lower 9th) and Dom Costa (10th, upper 9th Ward, Bloomfield) are not sponsors.

Vulakovich and Fontana are also cosponsors of Sen. John Rafferty’s SB 559, a similar bill which also includes LIDAR, a similar tool which uses infrared laser instead of radio waves, but has other restrictions which make it a lesser bill–notably, use of radar and lidar devices for speed measurement is limited to full-time police in 17 of PA’s 67 counties, and revenue past a certain limit must be sent to PennDOT rather than used in the community. SB 535 “would also extend to part time police, and wouldn’t put a stipulation on revenue limits. In other words police would be able to use radar/lidar as long as people were speeding, not until a certain revenue limit is reached.”

Please see BikePGH’s sample letter and contact your representatives.  If you live in their district, please thank Sens. Vulakovich, Fontana and Jay Costa for sponsoring SB 535 and ask them to continue to push for its passage.  Please ask Reps. Ravenstahl and Dom Costa to join in sponsoring and pushing for HB 71.

Giving PA’s local police access to radar, lidar, or whatever new tools may be developed won’t magically end speeding, and even reducing speeding won’t magically make Butler Street a walker’s or cyclist’s paradise.  But enforcement of traffic law is a significant part of making our neighborhood streets safer for all our neighbors, and giving our local police access to the same toolkit the rest of the world uses–and has been using for over fifty years–is a significant part of making that enforcement possible.