Our opinion: The battle over radar

Once again there is an effort underway in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to allow municipal police forces to use radar to enforce speed limits.

It’s an almost perennial exercise fraught with strong opinions among drivers, and that conflict transfers to the legislature through obvious political pressure.

The main organized opposition comes from the National Motorists Association, a Wisconsin-based organization whose stated goal is to protect the rights and interests of motorists.

The NMA claims that arming local police with radar will unleash a predatory instinct among municipalities and their constabulary, resulting in speed traps whose only purpose is to swell local government coffers by fleecing unwitting motorists.

The group also intimates that local police just aren’t up to the task of properly using and maintaining such sophisticated equipment.

You get the NMA’s gist; just fill in the bulging waistline, the toothpick, the mirrored aviators, and the southern drawl filtered through some bad dental work to complete the picture, the sequel being a quick appearance before a magistrate, whose last name is the same as the arresting officer.

Proponents of a bill offered by Rep. Mario Savello wonder why there is an assumption that only Pennsylvania State Police can be qualified to operate a device regularly used by pitching scouts.

They maintain that radar is a powerful tool to stop speeders and provide an incentive for others not to exceed the legal limits of velocity, particularly to protect pedestrians in more congested areas.

The NMA counters that “motorists tend to slow down in more congested areas anyway.”

If only that were a universal truth.

We don’t believe that local police are too stupid to operate radar. We do believe there are safeguards built into our justice system that protect against predatory practices by police, whether they receive their paychecks from the state or from a municipality.