Do You Need a Radar Detector?
Have you ever gotten into a friend's vehicle and seen a small contraption mounted on the dashboard with colored lights blinking around it? What is that thing? Has your friend made a connection with aliens? Should you save yourself and get out of the car now?
No, stay put. It's most likely a radar detector, and your friend is simply trying to prevent being ticketed for speeding.
Radar detectors are devices able to detect traffic radar used by law enforcement to record your driving speed. A radar detector works by using audio and visual warnings, such as flashing lights and beeping noises whenever you're approaching a law enforcement officer who is using traffic radar to control speeders.
Most radar detectors are designed to be mounted to the dashboard of your vehicle, though you can also find models that can be clipped to your sun visor or the inside of your windshield.
Some radar detectors can be put into "city" or "highway" mode, which communicates to the radar detector the environment in which you are driving. The radar will desensitize itself in city areas to prevent giving you a false alarm by detecting radar not associated with law enforcement.
Simply put, a radar detector should be both highly sensitive and selective in order to be the most effective; otherwise, it's going to beep every time you drive past a house with a microwave.
Some law enforcement officers are now using lasers to record your driving speed.
You can get laser shields or laser veils to help protect you against being caught by a law enforcement officer using a laser device, as well as jammers which are designed to obstruct, or "jam," the reading of radar or laser devices.
There are even special "paints" available, referred to as stealth coating, which absorb lasers and prohibit traffic radar from detecting certain parts of your vehicle, such as the headlights and license plate.
One might think that any product that helps you hide the fact that you are breaking the law would undoubtedly be illegal; however, in most states radar detectors are legal.
As reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures:
- In Virginia and Washington, DC, radar detectors are illegal.
- In Illinois and New York, radar detectors are permitted for vehicles other than commercial motor vehicles.
- Jammers are illegal in Washington, DC and Oklahoma.
Drivers aren't the only ones with tricks up their sleeves. Many law enforcement officers now use devices that can detect a radar detector. These devices are designed to detect frequencies produced by your radar detector's oscillator.
If you're caught using a radar detector or other device in a state that prohibits them, you could be fined and your device might be confiscated. You also run the risk of increased insurance rates.
Since radar detectors are still legal in most states, you don't have to resort to shady dealings in back alleys just yet.
Many auto accessory shops sell radar detectors. A company that sells radar detectors may also allow you to purchase them directly from the company's website.
If you're going to purchase a radar detector, jammer, or laser shield or veil of some sort, make sure you shop around for the best quality rather than the lowest price. There's no reason to spend money on something that may or may not prevent you from being ticketed.
Ideally, no. If you're driving the speed limit, as all drivers should, there is no reason for you to need a warning of upcoming radar.
However, if you tend to accelerate every now and then without realizing it, as many of us do during long stretches of highways, a radar detector might be beneficial. Just make sure to take it down when driving through states in which radar detectors are illegal.
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