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Intelligencer Journal
Lancaster New Era
Jul 26, 2010 22:40 EST
By TOM KNAPP, Staff Writer

A new trend in traffic enforcement is giving Lancaster County motorists a nudge to remind them how fast they are driving.

Portable radar units – about the size of a laptop computer – are appearing on speed-limit sign poles around the county, replacing in some areas the familiar but cumbersome trailer-mounted models.

The technology – a few years old, but only recently making appearances here – allows law-enforcement officers to keep an eye on the road without having to sit on the berm with a radar gun in hand.

“It’s a great tool. We own two of them,” J. Robert Eckenrode, public works superintendent for Lancaster Township, said. “The best thing we found out with them is traffic calming. You see one and you naturally take your foot off the gas pedal.”

The portable units – also known as “speed sentries” – can be mounted on sign poles and flash the speed of oncoming traffic.

“It’s very handy,” Eckenrode said. “It really helps with our police. I can advise them of times when there are a high-volume of excessive speeders. That helps them with enforcement.”

The device also can be used to count cars for traffic studies, he said.

Ephrata Borough manager Gary A. Nace said police use them “in a number of locations where speed is an issue, just to remind drivers how fast they’re going.” Ephrata Borough police Lt. Thomas Shumaker said the devices can be mounted “pretty much anywhere” along the road. “We’ve found them to be a valuable tool and very reliable,” he said. “We use them to educate motorists on their speed, to gather data on vehicles and speed averages. It helps us to better target our enforcement.”

State College-based All Traffic Solutions has been selling pole-mountable units since 2003 and added remote web access earlier this year.

Company vice president Scott Johnson said ATS has about 40 customers – mostly county and municipal governments – within the 717 area code.

“We’ve all got a lot of distractions,” Johnson said. “This is an additional tool that draws attention to the fact that you might not be going as slowly as you thought you were.”

The units can remotely alert police to a variety of circumstances, from a low battery to heavy congestion, he said.

“If you have a major arterial route that should be moving along at 45 mph and it suddenly drops to 15, they’ll know something is up,” he said.

The price of the units, Johnson said, ranges from under $3,000 to more than $20,000, depending on the options.

“You can scale the price according to what you need,” he said. “For less than $3,000, you can have a radar speed display that is extremely effective.”

Higher-end models include extra features such as traffic cameras, larger display screens, remote access and variable messaging.

Manheim Township police Chief Neil J. Harkins said his department doesn’t own any portable units – yet. “I do think they’re effective. We’re in the process of trying to purchase a few now,” he said. “It makes people attentive,” Harkins said. “They see them and think, ‘Yes, this is a problem area, and I need to slow down.’ ” Eckenrode said he’s fielded a lot of calls from local municipalities that are interested in the units. Lancaster Township spent “about $4,000 apiece” for them, he said. “And we get a lot of requests to borrow them.”

Installation, he added, is quick and easy. “It takes a matter of minutes,” he said. “You just need a couple of wing nuts and a key.”

Fritzi Schreffler, safety press officer for the state Department of Transportation, said PennDOT doesn’t own any portable units. The department still makes trailer-mounted radar signs available free of charge to municipalities. “All that we ask is that they’re doing some active enforcement in that area,” she said. tknapp@lnpnews.com

Direct all media inquiries to:
Lori Miles
All Traffic Solutions Marketing Manager
Calder Square, PO Box 10085
State College, PA 16805-0085
814-237-9005 Ext. 205

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