Your view: Radar is unreliable, keep it from local police

In this election year, the Pennsylvania Legislature should vote no on Bill SB 251, authorizing radar for municipal police because radar is unreliable.

The courts regard radar as foolproof. Nothing is further from the truth. Fresh evidence that further erodes radar’s patina of infallibility comes from an American Academy of Forensic Sciences research presentation titled “Testing of Police Radar.”

Despite 30 years of technological innovations, radar still suffers from the same reliability and performance issues that have made it unacceptable as evidence in a court of law. Radar cannot meet the requirements of the Daubert test, the set of standards trial judges use to determine whether or not expert testimony is based on valid scientific reasoning and methodology:

The researchers tested several radar brands and units. With only one target, the units were pretty consistent in their speed measurements. However with multiple targets, there was no guarantee as to which vehicle’s speed was displayed. They observed that “the radar units can well read different speeds … the decision to issue a citation is highly dependent upon the operator, relative to the instrument.” This refers to one of radar’s biggest downfalls: it can’t distinguish one vehicle from another.

The researchers further explain that radar can pick out either the strongest signal or the fastest signal, depending on road conditions and the mix of vehicles on the road. It cannot, however, pick out the speed of the nearest vehicle.

The researchers had the presence of mind to point out that radar speed enforcement encourages policing for profit.

Overall, the study further supports the conclusion that radar is unreliable, easily misused and often abused for revenue purposes.

Tom McCarey

Member, Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Motorists Association