Opinion: Pa. Has Been Misinformed About 'Speeding'
January 16, 2020
The Pennsylvania legislature is considering legislation that is anti-safety and anti-driver, the Speed Trap Bill SB 607. This bill is part of theenforcement-for-profit-not-safety racket that has infected Harrisburg: their desire to give radar to municipal police (Page B6 of the Jan. 9, 2020, edition of the Herald).
Radar should be banned in Pennsylvania and not extended to municipal police. There is no epidemic crisis of speeding, only an epidemic crisis of highway engineering malpractice allowing well-meaning but misinformed politicians to seek more and more money from safe drivers.
Radar is not about highway safety, radar is about raising revenue. Radar guns are notoriously inaccurate. For instance, clocking trees at 90 m.p.h. and being unable to distinguish between cars.
Claiming that the ticket money doesn’t go to the government is a red herring: 80 percent of ticket money will go to the state – a big incentive to arm police with radar guns. And saying that some of the ticket money goes to “good causes” in order to build support for radar is plain deception. For the attorneys reading this, RADAR fails the Daubert Test concerning the admissibility of evidence in court.
Every police traffic report requires three entries for “cause of accident,” and “excessive speed” is almost always listed as one of the three whether or not the driver was actually speeding. It’s a throw-away entry. This gives NHTSA and the “safety” lobby carte blanche, by manipulating their “statistics,” to raise the roof about all those maniacs slaughtering people on the highways, which is not true.
PA is doing OK
Not to mention that PennDOT declared, in 2016, that Pennsylvania’s roads are the safest they have ever been.
And according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) maintained by NHTSA/FHWA, the 2017 fatality rate for Pennsylvania was 1.12 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. The national average was 1.16 for 2017. Pa. is doing OK – better than average – in that respect. Are drivers suddenly running amok? I don’t think so.
Out of 2.7 million traffic accidents recorded in 25 states over the course of a year, only 1.6 percent were caused by drivers who exceeded the posted speed limit. The figures come from an analysis of annual reports typically compiled by each state for use in applying for grant money from the National Highway Transportation Agency (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, making it easy to write tickets.
Yet 50 years of government propaganda and misinformation about highway safety makes it easy for the “safety” lobby to declare that unless we give local police radar guns, everybody’s going to die. Far too many otherwise reasonable people agree, so that in the end, the special interests who profit from radar, the radar equipment manufacturers, auto insurers, governments, the police, and the courts, get their go-ahead to unfairly tax (ticket) drivers.
The safest speed
Posted speed limits are at the bottom of all of this. What is the safest speed* and who decides? An engineering concept known as the 85th Percentile Speed very simply says that 85 out of 100 motor vehicles will travel at or below a speed which is reasonable and prudent. It is the safest speed with the most compliance.
But posting limits at the 85th Percentile Speed makes the job of the police, that is – to collect taxes for the government – very difficult indeed since 85 percent of drivers are not speeding.
Four commonly held, but inaccurate statements about speed limits:
• Lowering a posted speed limit will slow down traffic.
• Lowering a posted speed limit will increase safety and decrease the number of crashes.
• Raising the posted speed limit increases traffic speed.
• Drivers will always travel at 5 mph over the posted speed limit.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found that 90 percent of the time, speed limits in Pennsylvania are posted 8 to 16 miles per hour below the safest speed.
The politicians’ response to complaints from uninformed and misled constituents about “speeders” is to push for equipping all police statewide with radar guns, while keeping posted limits too low and withholding NHTSA, FHwA and other statistics showing that there is no speeding crisis.
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 law enforcement. Money is the one and only reason for arming municipal police with radar guns.
Until speed limits are set at the safest speed using proper, time-tested highway engineering, as called for in Title 75, highway safety will not be improved. Radar guns will only raise money, they will not improve highway safety.
In a lame argument that this is not about the money, the radar lobby claims there is a cap on the revenue from tickets, that municipalities get “only” $20 a ticket. What about the added ambulance fees, court fees, police retirement fees, and fire company fees? These amount to another $160-plus per ticket, and then the insurance company can add a stiff surcharge to your policy. Tickets add up to $5 billion dollars per year in a nationwide enforcement-for-profit racket.
There is now a co-ordinated push by the radar lobby to gain public acceptance for radar using the same old tactics: using the baseless urban legends of “Speed kills!” and “Everyone speeds” to frighten the population into demanding that the politicians “do something.” The something they are trying to do will only take hundreds of millions of dollars from drivers in Pennsylvania, not add to safety.
Radar guns should not be given to municipal police.
The Pa. House of Representatives should vote NO on Speed Trap Bill SB 607.