Police in North Strabane will have "temporary custody" of a new speed-detecting machine which in its first hour and a half caught 20 speeders on Morganza Road.

The new machine, called ENRADD (Electric Non RADar Device), is being used on a temporary, rotating basis by various police departments in western Pennsylvania.

This particular unit is assigned to Bethel Park. It is small, with an aluminum frame less than two feet high, and consists of two receivers, one placed on either side of the road, which communicate with each other via laser beam. When a vehicle drives through and "breaks" the beam, the device is able to measure speed based on the length of time the beam is "broken."

North Strabane will use the machine through Sept. 15, then it will be returned to Bethel Park.

Radar detectors are useless against ENRADD.

The equipment is sensitive to rain and inclement weather, however, and officers say they don't use ENRADD during such times.

At least one officer in a department must be certified to use the machine. The police car could be up to 2,000 yards away from the device and still get accurate speed data, giving police the edge and surprise to catch speeders.

North Strabane Sergeant Dave Richards said motorists slow down upon seeing a police car. Other cars seeing a police speed trap often flash their lights to warn other drivers. ENRADD allows the police to be essentially invisible. "If you are speeding, you are breaking the law. We have a law which requires drivers to wear seat belts, and we enforce that too. It's for your own good. We also pulled over a driver who was using her cell phone and driving erratically. If you are driving, focus on driving. Not the phone."

ENRADD is one component of the Smooth Operator program, a multi-state effort designed to reduce aggressive driving behaviors and crashes. The police departments received a grant from PennDot to implement Smooth Operator.PennDot gave $2 million to various police departments to crack down on aggressive driving using the Smooth Operator program.

During the 2006 Labor Day weekend, there were 739 crashes and nine fatalities related to aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating, running red lights and careless passing. In its first year, Pennsylvania police departments have issued over 60,000 citations as part of Smooth Operator enforcement.

There are also more aggressive DUI enforcement measures in place, such as DUI roadblocks which continually net drunk drivers.

Police in South Strabane are on the list to get ENRADD after the device is returned to Bethel Park. There are four such machines in Allegheny County, but so far none have been purchased specifically for Washington County use. Police say each ENRADD unit costs about $4,000.

Copyright Observer Publishing Co.