Radar Detectors: Friend Or Foe To Motorists?

Itís hard to believe that radar detectors have already been an essential piece of after market technology in motor vehicles for over forty years. During that time the technology of radar to detect speeders, and also avoid that detection, has changed and been refined as both sides of that issue have gone to war with each other. There are many questions about the science, legality and practicality of radar detectors which I hope to answer for you.

How Do Radar Detectors Work?

A radar detector is basically a tech shell built around a superheterodyne receiver designed to receive or Ďdetectí the electromagnetic emissions that emanate from a radar gun. Despite what is a simple formula that seems to have worked for many years, things have gotten a bit more complicated for these devices. Because a wide array of electronic equipment other than radar guns now produce similar waves, any number of false alarms can occur when a driver is moving through most any reasonably populated area. Some detectors can be adjusted to avoid picking up things like garage door opener signals, but these adjustments can be complicated and not always successful.

Thanks to the giant leap in technology since radar detectors first hit the market, you can now purchase them with all kinds of features. GPS allows you to pinpoint and store popular speed trap locations. Lazar detection is a must as a companion to radar detection because it has become just as popular among law enforcement agencies as a means of catching speeders in the act. Some radar detectors now offer smart phone applications and interfaces which can alert drivers to any threat ahead or allow them to control detectors which are kept out of sight. Some detectors also have radar and laser jamming capabilities, but these jamming devices are now illegal to use in many places.

What Are The Benefits Of Radar Detectors?

Not everyone wants to own a radar detector because they watched the Speed Racer TV series or movie too many times or have a desire to break the land speed record on a public highway. Many motorists find themselves in the inconvenient position of having to travel long distances for their job and make time in order to make money. Speeding tickets kill the average personís bottom line in those situations and threaten their ability to continue operating a motor vehicle, so having a radar detector on board makes sense for them and others who need to get somewhere in a hurry.

Although it could easily be argued that the number one benefit of a radar detector is to help a motorist break the law, you could also say that these devices sometimes save drivers from small town speed traps created as a way to fund that municipality in a failing economy. Just within ten minutes of a my house is a small town located on a state road with six different speed limits posted in less than a mile. Speeds are 55, 40, 35, 25, 10 and finally 5 miles per hour. I know about this area, but every time I drive through it there are at least one or two cars pulled over to the side of the road for the purpose of receiving speeding tickets or invitations to the local court which will not come cheap.

Are Radar Detectors Legal?

The legality of radar detectors is a complicated issue and a question not easily addressed. The simple answer is that radar detectors are legal for non-commercial vehicles in most U.S. states as of this writing, with the exception of Virginia. They are also illegal in Washington, D.C. and on all U.S. Military bases. If you drive a commercial vehicle weighing over ten thousand pounds you cannot legally use a radar detector in the USA.

Some local municipalities around the country fight the system by trying to overrule state law with local codes that make the use of radar and laser detectors illegal when used in certain areas, but so far these attempts to bypass state laws have failed for the most part. However, if you plan on using a radar or laser detector on a long road trip, I highly recommend that you consult any one of the many online forums regarding state and local laws before heading out. If your trip includes Canada, the only provinces which allow detectors are Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

What is POP Radar?

POP radar is a technology which was first introduced to the law enforcement community in 1999. Its purpose is to detect a motoristís speed without setting off their radar detector. Instead of sending out a constant signal which a radar detector can easily receive and read, the POP system uses digital signal processing to emit very short energy bursts which return and read speeds the same way that conventional radar does, but in a manner that is far less detectable to normal radar detectors.

The good news for drivers is that most law enforcement agencies that issued speeding tickets based solely on the POP system have discovered that these tickets are often thrown out in court. Thatís because POP radar is not considered reliable enough to correctly judge an individual vehicleís speed without normal radar as a backup. The bad news for drivers is that once POP shows that they are speeding, conventional radar can be quickly turned on to verify a speeding situation after it is too late to slow down.


As a professional writer Bill accepts various paid writing assignments. Articles on most any topic are his specialty. He is also a non-fiction ghost writer for people who have an idea or story to tell without the skills to create a submittable book manuscript. Sorry, he does not accept term paper or technical writing assignments. Bill can be contacted on FACEBOOK.


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