JOHNSTOWN — In Pennsylvania, state police have been using radar since 1962. Municipal police departments say they want it, too.
Police in Cambria County pushed back the notion they only want radar to make money.
“I’ve been in this job 30 years,” Stonycreek Township police Chief David Dunkleberger said.
“It’s no more of a money maker that any other speed timing device that we have,” he said.
Municipalities only receive half of the fine money anyway, Dunkleberger said.
Most of the added costs and fees go to the state. For example, a driver who runs a red light or stop sign can expect a $25 fine and an additional $38.50 in costs.
Of that, Cambria County receives $21.40 and Pennsylvania gets the remaining $17.10.
Some one caught speeding might catch a break and be cited for obedience to traffic control devices which carries no points on the driver’s license.
While the driver must pony up at least $170, most of the money goes into state coffers. The Pennsylvania Transportation Trust Fund alone would receive $125. Other state agencies would divide $32.50, leaving just $12.50 for the municipality.
“It’s not about making money,” Geistown Borough police Chief Nicholas Zakucia said.
“It’s about reducing accidents and saving lives,” he said.
Municipal police departments use speed timing devices such as VASCAR (Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder) and Accutrak. Other equipment such as ENRADD (Electronic Non-Radar Device) is more costly.
“Some of those devices are extremely expensive,” Zakucia said.
Geistown police use Accutrak, which is one of the least expensive devices, he said. The stopwatch-like system with computer is manually operated and costs less than $100.
Police paint two white lines on the road. The officer records the moment a vehicle passes each line and the vehicle’s speed is calculated mathematically.
How accurate is Accutrak?
Bruce Carpenter, a speed-timing technician, said it is extremely accurate.
“Most watches are within less than a second of being dead-on,” he said.
But the stopwatches must be tested and certified every 60 days. Officers using the stopwatches also must be certified, he said.
Adams Township police use VASCAR and ENRADD, which detects speed of a vehicle by using two small bars that are placed on each side of the roadway with a beam of light connecting them. As a vehicle passes through the beam, the device automatically calculates the speed.
“If you get a call, you have to tear it down and come back and set it up again,” Adams police Chief Kirk Moss said.
ENRADD units have been targeted by thieves, he said. “If you’re chasing a speeder and come back and the unit’s gone you’re out 1,500 bucks,” Moss said.
Police say radar is better for catching speeders in tight residential neighborhoods.
“You could hide along the side of the road and instantly get the speed,” Zakucia said. “Park, point and click.”
“It would enable us to run speed in a lot more areas,” he said. “It’s nothing that’s going to make a municipality rich.”