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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.”
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