No RADAR for Local Cops

Dear Editor:

Radar should be banned in Pennsylvania. There is no epidemic crisis of speeding, only an epidemic crisis of highway engineering malpractice allied with and abetted by politicians seeking more and more money from safe drivers.

Speed is a cause of accidents 5% of the time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Speed as a cause of accidents when traffic is free flowing is a rare event, yet this is when the majority of citations are written. Speed traps are staged where it is safe to drive faster to make it easy for the cops to write tickets.

Yet, 50 years of government propaganda and misinformation about highway safety makes it easy for our elected servants to declare that unless we give local police radar guns, everybody's going to die! And far too many otherwise reasonable people agree, so in the end, the special interests who profit from radar, the radar manufacturers, the politicians, the police, and the courts, get their go-ahead to unfairly tax drivers.

Posted speed limits are at the bottom of all of this. What is the safe speed and who decides? If it were up to the politicians, we'd be driving cars that could only go 20 miles per hour, and that would suit the do-gooders  just fine. The core tenet of reasonable traffic laws, safety and due process is that the super majority of people act in a safe and responsible manner, and they do drive safely for the conditions present. An engineering concept known as the 85th
percentile very simply says that 85 out of 100 motor vehicles will normally travel at or below a speed which is reasonable and prudent. It is the safest speed with the most compliance. But that makes the job of the police, that is, to collect taxes for the government, very difficult indeed.

The Federal Highway Safety Administration (FHwA) found that 90% of the time speed limits are posted 8 to 16 miles per hour too slow. Because uninformed and misled constituents complain about "speeders" the politicians push for arming all police state-wide with radar guns, while keeping limits too low and withholding NHTSA and FHwA statistics showing that there is no crisis.

Arbitrarily, unrealistic speed zones cannot be expected to reduce accidents and may, in fact, adversely affect traffic safety by confusing drivers and increasing speed differentials. Hunting down drivers with radar guns will not improve highway safety, and the unfair and unnecessary enforcement of too-low limits will foster contempt for the law. Money is the one and only reason for radar. Call your representative and your senator and tell them to stop the nonsense and ban radar in Pennsylvania. Thank you.

Tom McCarey
285 Dayleview Road
Berwyn, PA 19312
Thomas A. McCarey May 29, 2014 at 11:44 AM
OK. ers1352 is obviously represents the group who profits from traffic enforcement. The statistics he cites are selective/cherry-picked/doctored, and the fact is, traffic enforcement for profit generates billions of dollars for the special interests, especially including the auto insurers. Even government statistics show few accidents because of "speeding." The other letters are without basis because they are anecdotal and opinion. There are no end of busybodies who want to dictate how people drive because they think they know what's better for other people. Look at the accident statistics, not at your "close calls," and leave the rest of us safe drivers alone. Thanks. Tom McCarey
Elizabeth May 30, 2014 at 07:14 AM
@tom. Are you against observing speed limits? Or just radar? Btw I was a pedestrian hit. It was no close call.
Ben Goldberg May 30, 2014 at 10:24 AM
I believe only the State Police are allowed to use radar for traffic enforcement in PA. Local police departments are not. That is why they use Vascar, which is a computer system to time speed between two points, usually white lines painted on the road. When you see those lines, you are potentially passing through a speed trap (only if it is manned by an officer who can see your car enter and leave the zone between the lines).
Ben Goldberg May 30, 2014 at 10:43 AM
While we are on the subject of dangerous driving, please be aware that driving while texting or even speaking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous, even more dangerous than speeding. Drivers who talk on mobile or cell (cellular) phones are as impaired as drunken drivers, according to research.1 Drivers who use a handheld device are four times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury. The risk to the public is serious. At any given moment during the daylight hours, over 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. are being driven by someone using a handheld cell phone, according to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).2 The National Safety Council estimates that in a recent year, 21% of vehicular crashes (1,100,000) involved talking on either a handheld or handsfree cell phone.3 Both hand-held and hands-free mobile phones impair driving, with no significant difference in the degree of impairment. Researchers have asserted that this well established scientific fact “calls into question driving regulations that prohibited handheld cell phones and permit hands-free cell phones.”4 1. Strayer, D.L., Drews, F.A., and Crouch, D.L. A comparison of the cell phone driver and the drunk driver. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 2006 (Summer), 381-391; Collet, C., et al. Phoning while driving I: a review of epidemiological, psychological, behavioural and physiological studies. Ergonomics, 2010, 53(5), 589-601. 2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Policy Statement and Compiled FAQs on Distracted Driving. nhtsa.gov/Driving+Safety/Distracted+Driving/Policy+Statement+and+Compiled+FAQs+on+Distracted+Driving 3. National Safety Council. Annual Estimate of Cell Phone Crashes 2010. 2012. nsc.org/safety_road/Distracted_Driving/Documents/AttributableRisk Summary.pdf 4. Strayer, D.L., et al. A comparison of the cell phone driver and the drunk driver. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 2006 (Summer), 381-391.
David May 30, 2014 at 11:44 AM
As others have commented, it is not the speeds on the highway (e.g. 202) that is my concern--it is the speeds on some of the local road. When people drive 60 on, say, Chesterbrook Blvd, it is a problem. Radar would make it more efficient and easier to enforce reasonable speed limits on local streets. I don't think it would make much difference on the highways--between the State Police (who already use radar) and set speed zones (the white lines), local police being able to use radar on the highways won't make much difference. But they will be able to efficiently step up enforcement on local streets.


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