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49 other states let local police departments use radar for speed control. Why not Pennsylvania? “The topography’s against us,” says Lt. Duane Fisher, head of the Mt. Lebanon Traffic Enforcement Unit. The third system is the one touted on many signs throughout the commonwealth, signs that read Speed Enforced by VASCAR. Vascar (Visual Average Speed Computer Recorder) is basically a guy with a stopwatch. A stopwatch that still needs to be recalibrated every 60 days, as opposed to a once-a-year check for radar. Although all of these systems work—Mt. Lebanon Police have given out an average of 1,215 speeding citations a year over the past five years—each comes with limitations that radar doesn’t have. Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) and its newer counterpart, Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) work by sending pulses of sound or light energy to an object and calculating the object’s speed by measuring the amount of time it takes for the signal to return. “A WHOLE OTHER LEVEL” Fisher says the five worst spots for speeding in Mt. Lebanon are Gilkeson, Washington and McNeilly roads and Cedar and Mt. Lebanon boulevards. Under state law, drivers must be clocked at least 10 mph over the posted limit if monitored by a non-radar device. With radar device, that number shrinks to 6 mph. Imagine the number of speeders who fall within that 6-10 mph range over the course of a busy day. “Try going 25 on Cedar,” says state Rep. Dan Miller. “You’ll have cars crawling all over your bumper.” Miller, a Mt. Lebanon volunteer firefighter and former commissioner, has been an advocate for relaxing the radar ban since way before he became a Pennsylvania legislator last year. “As a volunteer firefighter, I’ve been called out on my share of crashes,” he says. “I’ve always supported the use of radar as another safety tool. That’s why one of the first bills I signed onto when I came to Harrisburg was one permitting local departments to use radar.” The latest version of legislation that would allow local departments to use radar is House Bill 1272. Miller is one of 24 co-sponsors of the bill, which was introduced in April 2013 and has languished in committee ever since. “I’m pretty vocal on this issue,” he says. “We need to get some movement in the house and the senate.” At the local level, Commissioner Kelly Fraasch is making getting radar for local departments a priority. “As I discussed this issue with residents, I would say about 95 percent of them weren’t aware that our local departments couldn’t use radar,” she says. Fraasch has put together a website, www.radarforpa.com, to educate residents about the issue. Fisher says radar would be a more effective way of enforcing speed on residential streets because of its portability and the WEB EXTRA: Read Police Chief fact that an officer Coleman McDonough's testimony can set up with a to the state senate regarding the radar gun out of use of radar. www.lebomag.com. sight. It’s a pretty much a given that drivers slow down when they see a police car—even if they’re not speeding. “When you have officers using a speed device out in the open, you will stop speeding in that place on that day,” Fisher says. “If drivers don’t know where the [radar] devices are, you can take safety to a whole other level.” mjantz@mtlebanon.org www.lebomag.com 31