A Thought on Radar Detectors

By Deane Barker on February 27, 2005

I got to thinking about radar detectors the other day. I’ve owned a couple, but as a rule, they sucked. I remember once that I was on my way across town, and it went off 14 times in the five minute trip. The next day, on the interstate, I drove right past a speedtrap and it stayed silent. Nice.

Anyway, not my point —

Radar detectors essentially help you break the law. We all use them, and we have wonderful euphemisms for them, but they exist for one purpose: to help you get away with speeding.

Radar detectors also sound alarms based on faulty detection. Grocery store alarms were a big one for me. They can really be set off by about anything. In high school, I knew that the burglar alarm at the Hy-Vee at 33rd and Minnesota would always set mine off. So I learned to disregard the alarm at this intersection.

Now, a smart cop would cruise around town and note all the places where the detector consistently went off, and he would set up his speed traps in those locations. Since I learned to disregard the alarm at that intersection, I would have been awfully surprised by a cop lying in wait there.

The smart city would take this a step further: why not blanket the city in false positives? Set up signal emitters all over town to essentially render radar detectors useless — they would go off constantly until their users shut them off in frustration. Cops would have free reign to set up speed traps because drivers would either (1) be driving very slowly (obeying the law) because their detectors would always be going off, or (2) have shut them off and would be driving normally (which usually means, in excess of the speed limit).

Why hasn’t any city done this? And if they did, would the drivers have any legal recourse? Could you sue the city for rendering your investment useless? Or would that require you to admit that you were using it to help you break the law in the first place?

Just wondering.

Gadgetopia

Comments

  1. If everyone obeyed the speed limit, there would be a huge loss of revenue for many municpalities. Here in FL, we have several small rural towns whose annual budget is almost 100% funded by the money they take in from speed traps.

    Yes, the primary, and to the best of my knowledge, sole purpose of radar detectors is to assist you in avoiding being caught in the act of committing a moving violation, and I’ve never owned one in my life, but one time I wish I had – I was stopped by a bike cop on an empty side street, I was speeding, but I don’t know by how much. The cop didn’t know either, because he had no radar gun. He was standing on the roadside and waving cars over as they approached. I asked how fast I was going and all he could tell me was that the ticket (if he had chosen to written one) would have been in X dollar range. I pushed the point, because I wanted to see if he would either commit to a rate of speed or admit he was not actually using a radar gun and could not be 100% sure if I was speeding or not.

    To answer the main question, I think it may be too cost-prohibitive to spread out signal emitters in order to baffle radar detectors, and just like the supermarket burglar alarm that would trip your alarm, perhaps there is some potential for the emitters to interfere with some other vital piece of equipment.

    In Tampa, they used to stick broken down cop cars awaiting repair at busy intersections to make it seem a speed trap was in effect. This would be a much more cost-effective way to induce a lawful rate of speed. My uncle worked in city fleet maintenance for a long time, and I knew which corners had broken down cop cars, but it still raised a flag in my head everytime I approached one.

  2. Hmmm, all these years and I always thought it was the automatic door opener that triggered the false alarms.

    Most of the tickets that I’ve received have been when using the radar detector. I quit using it years ago and have been much happier since.

  3. I have always thought that owning a radar detector would be a bad example to my future children. Now that I have 4 kids I am glad I don’t have a radar detector. The kids are very good at pointing out hypocrisies.

  4. Matt C. is probably correct in it not being cost effective to blanket a city with signal emitters. Maybe install them at key intersections; just make it part of the signal light equipment.

    I’ve never used a detector, and certainly wouldn’t in front of my kids. I usually drive slightly over the speed limit — the police around here generally give you about a 5-10mph leeway, which is usually the speed most people drive at. Anything over that around town would be downright dangerous.

    I heard a news bit on the radio last week that some city has private citizen volunteers driving around in police cruisers during peak traffic times. Just the sight of a cop car is enough to get people to slow down. I don’t think that’s such a good idea; they don’t have the authority to write tickets or make arrests, and they don’t likely have the training to deal with some situations they may find themselves in the middle of. I’m sure the PD in that city does a pretty thorough job of briefing the volunteers on what to do in certain situations, but it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

  5. Why not just do like Canada and ban the radars all together. It is pretty crappy for us drivers but at least the cops can do their jobs instead of playing games.

  6. Hmmm, all these years and I always thought it was the automatic door opener >that triggered the false alarms.

    Well, I’m about 99.9999% certain that is IS the automatic door openers that trigger them,, I’ve done testing while right next to them and as I pointed the RD at the doors, the RD went crazy. If I pointed it in the opposite direction, the signal became much weaker. Door openers that I’ve come accross these days tend to use the ‘K’-band radio frequencies, although some still use the ‘X’-band frequencies.

    Most of the tickets that I’ve received have been when using the radar detector. I >quit using it years ago and have been much happier since.

    You have to be careful when using radar detectors. Most cops these days tend to use an instant-on feature rather than always-on. So, you have to make sure that other car(s) are well ahead of you, and if you hear an intermitant beep, it will most surely be a cop further down the road ‘gunning’ at what we refer to as ‘drone’ vehicles – then you know you should slow down.

    I usually only drive about 10 miles over the limit under good conditions – such as NOT around a school zone or in heavy downtown traffic. As long as one pays CLOSE & ABSOLUTE attention to their driving (i.e. ABSOLUTELY NO CELL PHONE CALLS! :-), I feel it’s relatively safe. Also, defensive driving practices are an absolute must! (Besides, SOME speed-limits are, IMNSHO, ludicrously set — 25 MPH down a seldom-used four lane street with no schools and barely any intersections in sight!!?!?! – COME ON! ;-)

    As far as the comment that RDs allow one to break the law, it could also be argued that RDs acutally increase the visible presence of a cop car. I’ve noticed that MOST ‘insane’ speeders don’t even have RDs! If these drivers had a RD, I believe they would tend to slow down a bit more often.

    I also firmly believe that if more people ‘sped’, at LEAST to the flow of traffic, that there would be quite a fewer number of accidents. ESPECIALLY those mini-van drivers, or people with ‘NASCAR’ stickers on their rear window! =) =)

    Anyway, that’s just my opinion – and I don’t have kids to worry about setting a ‘bad’ example to.

  7. ” Now, a smart cop would cruise around town and note all the places where the detector consistently went off, and he would set up his speed traps in those locations. Since I learned to disregard the alarm at that intersection, I would have been awfully surprised by a cop lying in wait there.

    The smart city would take this a step further: why not blanket the city in false positives? Set up signal emitters all over town to essentially render radar detectors useless — they would go off constantly until their users shut them off in frustration. Cops would have free reign to set up speed traps because drivers would either (1) be driving very slowly (obeying the law) because their detectors would always be going off, or (2) have shut them off and would be driving normally (which usually means, in excess of the speed limit). “

    Even though we have been using RDs for many years, we have yet to get a single ticket since using them.. The trick is that one has to know HOW they work as well as HOW to use them – I believe that most people are under the impression that they are ‘magical’ police detectors, which they certainly are NOT. They ONLY detect RADAR(&laser) signals

    I, too, have pondered as to why cops don’t use these ‘hot spots’ to set up many speeding traps – or why they don’t put signal emitters everywhere they can. Yet only one conclusion has come to mind.. I believe the reason that they can’t do this is because of technical reasons.. Radar works by bouncing signals off of metalic objects(generally) – the reflected signals and their strength is what tells the radar gun how fast one is going. When an area is saturated with police radar signals(X,K,KA-superwideband, etc. frequencies) coming from everywhere, the radar gun simply cannot accurately distiguish the ‘false’ signals from the ‘real’ signals that are bouncing back to the ‘gun’.

    I WOULD very much like to hear if anyone else with more technical experience/knowledge than I might have any comment as to the accuracy of my belief, though! :)

  8. Well, everyone is forgeting the point of traffic police. I have never owned a radar detector, but the point of traffic police is to control the traffic. Hiding and giving tickets was never the sole purpose of the traffic police because you can only effect a few individuals. This is why they should be very visible at high-accident areas and then they can effect actual accident statistics. This is the purpose of traffic police – to decrease accidents/injuries/deaths. This is why I am always surprised when I see an unmarked police car pull someone over for a speeding ticket – it defeats the primary purpose for the police.

  9. In the uk, our argument for using radar detectors is that they are to detect “accident blackspots” : ) As surely this is where the police would be using them to political correctness, rather than financial gain? The Police over here are one BIG game! Its a them and us game! They are using speeding fines to make millions of £’s profit a year

  10. Most of you sound like Responsible people

    I doubt radar detectors were created for people such as yourselves

    I on the other hand have one , use one and know how one works , infact i read up about them as often as i can on the internet to increase my skill with using my radar detector.

    I like to speed , for me it is a thril , and typically i dont totaly offend to paying a fine here and there and going to traffic court (always go to traffic court , i have saved literally thousands on fines just by showing up)

    I speed , im addicted to driving fast , if its a residental area , it will be at 3 or 4 in the morning to cut out my worries for children and etc..

    and if its during the day its typically on the major highways.

    Its just a nice thing to own if you like to speed , i know many who do not own radar detectors and drive just like i do , however im 100% positive my RD has paid for itself at least 4 times over.

    Its what i like to call the ounce of prevention. as to the ticket being a pound of cure.

    and people with minivans should die.

Comments are closed. If you have something you really want to say, email editors@gadgetopia.com and we‘ll get it added for you.