EDITORIAL: Full enforcement Give sheriffs radar for traffic safety

By NEMS Daily Journal

Many sheriffs across Mississippi want the Legislature to authorize the use of radar speed detection guns in traffic law enforcement in rural areas where their use is illegal under existing law.
Similar legislation has been filed many times, but each time the proposed and sensible addition to the law enforcement tools available to officers other than the Mississippi Highway Patrol and some municipal police departments has died, principally because of opposition in the House.
A ban on texting while driving is the other top priority sought by many sheriffs and other law enforcement officers statewide.
A texting ban is a sensible prohibition because research has found that distraction caused by texting while driving has the risk equivalent of driving under the influence.
Thirty states ban texting while driving, and 10 of those bans were enacted in 2010 as evidence mounted of the danger created by the diversions texting causes.
Sheriffs and radar
It’s difficult to understand why – in a state claiming to hold law enforcement in high esteem – sheriffs’ departments remain handicapped in the use of an effective technology in catching speeders.
State troopers do it, city policemen do it, but sheriffs, except for Lowndes County under a local and private exception, are forbidden.
The restriction creates a law enforcement double standard that becomes riskier as many of the state’s 82 counties become more urbanized and population density increases.
The gist of opposition is that a lot of people don’t want to get caught speeding in rural areas and assert that speed traps are wrong, which is a tacit admission they want to break speed limit laws and not be threatened by enforcement.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said a bill allowing radar detection in county law enforcement vehicles has been defeated seven consecutive years. Even additional local and private attempts have died from inaction in the House.
The Mississippi Senate has been more open to the idea and has passed bills that would allow radar, but the House hurdle always has been too high.
Johnson said in an an interview with Journal reporter Danza Johnson, “There are more accidents where speed is involved on county roads than in any other area. People are losing their lives and radar is a tool we can use to slow these vehicles down. But right now our hands are tied.”
Some opponents cite the use of speed traps to raise revenue. While infuriating for those caught and fined, if the speed limit is violated what’s the complaint?
Suburban growth in counties like Lee, DeSoto, Rankin and Madison makes many roads outside corporate limits the traffic equivalent of busy city streets and secondary highways.
Mississippi inexplicably allows the use of so-called radar detectors, devices used by almost everyone who installs them to warn of speed detection radar.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says this about radar detectors:
“Institute research has shown that interstate highway drivers with radar detectors reduced their speeds by at least 5 mph or activated their brake lights when suddenly exposed to police radar. Before exposure, vehicles with detectors were traveling significantly faster than those without detectors. By 1 mile past the radar, more than three-fourths of the vehicles with radar detectors were traveling at least 5 mph faster than the speed limit. Clearly, the only purpose of a radar detector is to avoid speed law enforcement.”
Mississippi’s rural radar prohibition and allowing radar detectors work against traffic safety.
Our state needs universal traffic radar enforcement.