- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 4, 2010

RICHMOND — Legislation to end Virginia’s ban on radar detectors won the backing of a major committee Thursday — the first time the perennial measure has advanced so far.

The House Transportation Committee voted 11-8 to advance Delegate Joe May’s legislation to a floor vote next week.

Virginia is the only state to ban the devices, which alert speeding motorists to traffic enforcement radar in time to brake and avoid a ticket. The only other jurisdiction that outlaws them is the District of Columbia.

Mr. May, the committee chairman, argued that the radar detector ban harms tourism and business in Virginia, both priorities of new Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell.

“Right now, if I’m driving from Maine to Florida and I have one of these in my car — or even one built in to my new car — then I don’t have to worry about having a radar detector in any state but Virginia,” the Loudoun Republican said.

Mr. May argued that having the radar detectors in cars actually makes the highways safer because when they detect signals within the radio bandwidth of traffic radar, drivers slow their cars.

But Delegate Charles W. “Bill” Carrico, Grayson Republican, who is a former Virginia state trooper, said he knew from personal experience that the detectors make roads more dangerous.

While running traffic enforcement in an unmarked patrol car in the early 1990s, Mr. Carrico said, he pulled alongside three cars traveling faster than 80 mph.

“I hit my radar button; he’s got a radar detector; he slams on the brakes, which led to a three-car accident. Now is that safe?” he said.

Automobile insurance companies, the state police and the Virginia Sheriffs Association opposed Mr. May’s bill.

“There is only one reason for these devices, and that is to encourage people to break the law,” said John Jones, chief lobbyist for the sheriffs organization.

Virginia’s law against circumventing police traffic enforcement efforts dates to 1962, and provisions specifically targeting radar detectors date to the mid-1970s.

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