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Radar vs. Radar Detector

Posted March 25, 2015 10:12 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: highway radar radar detector traffic

It's been a while since I've been cited for a traffic infraction (*frantically searches for wood to knock on). In September 2011 I was pulled over for speeding through a school zone near my residence. In my absolute defense, the school itself had been closed for three years, and unbeknownst to me, that day was the first day classes had resumed at that building.

While it's more contextual and less excusal, I took the ticket to court and settled for a diminished punishment. It was the first time I had received points on my license since before I was 20. Most of the tickets in my life have come from the city's policy of alternate parking on my street.

However, when I saw that Monday's meh.com deal was a well-rated Cobra radar detector for just $18, well, my buying impulse couldn't be restrained, just like my breakfast sandwich needs back in September 2011. Thing is, I don't even speed (5 mph over the speed limit, maximum). Heck, I barely drive (city life and working from home does that you.) However, all I'm doing is expressing my right to buy and use a radar detector, something many people can't do. And trying to stay one step ahead of the cops is as old as speed enforcement itself; excuse me if I try not to be a rolling dollar sign.

Radar detectors are illegal to own or operate in many countries: Australia (except one province), most of Canada, Netherlands, Brazil, France, Germany, just to name a few. They're also illegal in Virginia and Washington D.C. However, they are legal in the rest of the U.S., U.K., Russia and Mexico. In Israel, cell service providers integrate radar detection into their smartphones. This just shows the divide over how to legislate these devices that supposedly enable motorists to practice unsafe driving.

But it's truly impossible to restrict citizens from owning a radar detector. First, radar detectors are surprisingly cheap and simple for a knowledgeable individual (such as you, or perhaps frankd20). Second, there is an endless amount of detector detecting. That's why some police detectors feature radar detector detectors, and to counter this, driver-oriented devices sometimes feature detector detector detectors, or metal-enclosures to prevent detectors from picking up stray EM signals.

As things have become interconnected, it can be virtually impossible for the police to surprise motorists with a speed trap. For example, radar detector manufacturer Escort has models that upload police locations to a database via Bluetooth-tethered smartphones. Other Escort users in the vicinity receive updates about speed traps, even before their detector goes off. Of course there are already pricey apps available, but they don't have the active sensing.

Lastly, consider the safety effects of radar detectors. It's assumed that detectors enable speeding, therefore unsafe drivers. According to a NHTSA survey (.pdf), drivers with radar detectors are twice as likely to be stopped for a traffic violation, yet the survey doesn't report on safety. In fact the only government study on the issue is from 1988 (.pdf); it found that "it remains to be demonstrated that detector usage influences speed in the absence of a detectable radar signal." The study also found that drivers with radar detectors slowed down considerably when in the presence of a detected signal, and that was a larger threat than the speeding. Lastly, it concluded that the study was a waste of money and that's probably why there aren't more studies on this issue.

Besides, if the police are actually determined to catch you speeding, they'll use LIDAR. Detectors will often alert drivers to the presence of a LIDAR gun, but won't perceive the signal until the LIDAR has already determined your speed. Sure you can jam the LIDAR, but that's an FCC violation, much worse than a simple speeding ticket.

Until autonomous cars promise a homogenous flow of traffic, there will always be a device war between radar guns and radar detectors. You don't have to pick a side, but you might be stuck in the slow lane.

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#1

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 10:25 AM

I have a fairly expensive Beltronics radar detector and I really enjoy it. It serves as a reminder to slow down if I have been traveling too fast. More than that, it warns me that the people ahead will probably slamming on the brakes soon, as they visually see the police car up ahead.

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#2

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 10:47 AM

I found a better way:

No more expensive tickets.

No more raised insurance rates.

No more frayed nerves, wondering where the cop was, that was going to give me a speeding ticket.

Didn't have to spend money on a radar detector.

I just finally realized that I didn't need to be anywhere so soon that I had to risk my life or others. I just quit speeding.

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#5
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 3:23 PM

You don't even have to go that far, at least in Florida.

I've passed police cars while I'm going almost 10 mph over the limit driving a red sports car and haven't got stopped. Gives some of my passengers the willies. I've put about 100,000 miles in that same car and have yet to be stopped for speeding.

It's not so much the speed that gets you stopped as how you are driving.

On an open road with little traffic and good environmental conditions going 10 over is not an issue. Do the speed limit while weaving in and out of traffic will get you noticed and stopped if you are perceived to be unsafe.

Oh, I never use a radar detector and I am not necessarily a saint when it comes to speed, but I seem to have a good ability to know where I can speed and where I can't. However, most important is how I drive.

Police are looking to stop the accidents and if you drive safely, then you are not so much a target.

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#6
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 3:37 PM

Yeah, I go a little over the speed limit, but usually hold it to <10 over. Most cops will tell you that they will just watch you go by at <10. But they will nab you if you pass them (sort of a slap in the face - disrespectful).

It also depends on where you are at: In Las Vegas they will announce on the TV news that they are ticketing people going 20 and over.

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#15
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 3:29 PM

"Police are looking to stop the accidents" That is very true unless Police are using their radars as a revenue source for their jurisdiction.

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#16
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 3:49 PM

...well then, they are just trying to stop fiscal accidents.

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#11
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 6:50 AM

<Applause> GA

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#20
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/27/2015 4:03 PM

The other side of the coin...

If the limit is 55 and everyone else is going 65, your chances of being in an accident are greater if you're going 55 rather than the same speed as the rest of traffic, especially if you need to change lanes and have to keep your eyes glued to the rear-view to see oncoming traffic.

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#3

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 11:08 AM

Any discussion of radar detectors deserves inclusion of the Valentine One. It informs you not only of the number of radar signals, but more importantly, the direction.... so one can make an informed choice whether to slow down, or speed up. :-)

I'm not sure how the laser detection in other detectors performs, but the Valentine One has given me plenty of time to slow down presumably from laser scattered from cars ahead.

I don't have any affiliation with the company, other than being a satisfied customer. If you do decide to use a detector, this one is not cheap, but it is worth consideration.

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#4

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 2:41 PM

"Escort has models that upload police locations to a database"

Also true of a number of sat-nav systems.

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#12
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 9:03 AM

Driving over in the Netherlands, the GPS alerted me of speed cameras and zones prior to getting there, which of course made everyone slow down. I found this as an annoyance more than anything.

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#7

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 5:45 PM

I had a radar detector many years ago but I found they were more hassle than useful.

I learned to employ the 95% percentile rule.

Make sure there is at least 5% of the cars going faster than you and you can relax. It is still advisable to keep an eye on your mirrors however.

If you are the lone car on the highway then I have a fallback of <10 over as others have noted that you will rarely get a ticket on a highway if you are less than 10 over.

Watch out for Ruckersville, VA where the speed limit drops from 60 to 50 on a downhill section of US-29 because that is a significant source of revenue for the locals there. That's the only ticket I've received in the last 20 years. I made my $125 donation to the county in 2006.

And as others have said, your driving profile (keep a low one) has much to do with not catching the attention of the constabulary. In other words, don't drive like a douche bag. Fast is fine, just keep it safe.

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#8
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/25/2015 6:01 PM

Yup. Every time someone flies by me down the road I think, Private, run out there and draw fire!

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#13
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 1:24 PM

I use pretty much your system at a more conservative 25% faster, so far with good results.

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#9

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 1:41 AM

Sadly, most of the comments don't apply in most parts of Australia (especially Victoria). It's all about the speed while ones manner of driving is virtually ignored.

Brave Sir Robin's 95th percentile approach works though, albeit resulting in travelling at much less than 10 mph or 16 km/h over. +16 km/h over will get you pinged here every time.

Appreciate and enjoy what you've got.

(image how it affects me with an M3 and an STI)

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#10

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 6:49 AM

Speeding is cheating.

When one follows the rules on the signs and publications applicable to the roads in the jurisdiction in which the vehicle is being driven, there is no need, ever, to own or use a radar detector.

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#14
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 2:55 PM

The Texas D.P.S. safety trainer when I was a pup being trained to use state owned vehilces for travel to crime scenes or court was a wise old bird:

"You could speed and arrive there a few minutes faster, or you could speed and not arrive at all because you were involved in an accident. Do you really want criminals getting away because you failed to do your job? If you drive the posted (safe) speed limits, you may arrive slightly later than you would have, but the key point is that you will most likely arrive, and arrive in a condition and position to be able to do your job."

The short version: Drive safely and arrive for all practical purposes.

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#17

Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/26/2015 8:19 PM

I always enjoy this topic, as a Law Enforcement Officer in the military and also having served a few years as a sworn officer on the civilian side, I'd like to weigh-in.

First, a generalizing statement - People will break the law if… according to their belief structure and moral compass doing so fits within 'their' realm of acceptable behavior… AND they have a high chance of not getting caught… AND the degree of consequence is acceptable.

Case-in-point, doing </= 10 MPH over the posted limit. Meh… it's only 10 over, it's not like I'm robbing a bank (acceptable behavior) and most cops won't pull me over when I'm in that range (chance of getting caught) and if I do get caught, it's just a fine and a point or two on my license (degree of consequence.)

Same reasoning why most people that feel 10 over is acceptable won't do anything over in a School Zone.

But why is it that most cops wont write a ticket for </= 10 over? It's called Speed Differential, the difference in velocity between the average slowest car and the average fastest. Hardly anyone can maintain exactly the speed limit - traffic is a dynamic condition which requires constant adjustments. An acceptable differential allows a vehicle on one end of the speed deferential the ability to make a safe adjustment caused by a vehicle on the other side of the differential.

Now, the actual limit (75 vs. 55 vs. 25) adjusts the amount over that a cop is likely to forgive. Weather, traffic density, the amount and type of entry/exit points onto the roadway, and.. like others have mentioned - 'how' you're driving will also influence a cops level of discretion and their tolerable differential.

A couple other points before I get to my feelings on Detectors.

First, most Cops make the decision on whether they are going to cite a driver or not before they even get out of the car. Expanding on that, you should know that no matter how good you are at verbal persuasion - you cannot talk your way out of a ticket (if you didn't get a ticket, you likely weren't going to get one whether you pleaded your case or not) but you can always talk yourself into one!

Second, there is another reason why we pull people over, even if they are within the tolerable speed differential, and even if they're not driving all crazy-like… presence. The drivers we're targeting are everyone else on the road that see us with you pulled over. You see, there are not enough Cops for us to sit on every road all day monitoring traffic and the longer the stretch goes with no presence on a highway the faster the high-end average gets. But the issue is, the low end doesn't change because those drivers that drive at, or even below, posted do not change their habits based on presence - but the ones that speed do - this widens the differential which increases accident probability and severity. So we track where we run Radar and the area that hasn't had any activity for the longest time - we'll send someone out (usually in a plain wrapper) to check differential and average high. If it's getting excessive we'll target that area and just keep pulling people over, one after another. And will let them sit 5 min or so and let them off with a warning. The goal is over a 3 to 5 mile stretch or roadway one of three or so cops will have someone pulled over at all times. Do that every day on the front and back end of rush hour, 3 days straight, and you've slowed traffic back down for a month.

Now the Radar Detector - simply, I wish they were illegal. First, I have yet to come across anyone that can justify their existence without pulling the 'free country, you're infringing on my rights' argument. There is only ONE reason to buy them, it's to reduce the chance of getting caught; one of the three reasons why people speed. And, since you own a Radar Detector we already know that speeding is an acceptable behavior for you, so that leaves one left… degree of consequence. Most people that own Radar Detectors go faster than the typically acceptable 10 over and then - when it goes off - slow down to 10 over. Speed limits are what they are for a reason - they are calculated based on numerous factors and are established to ensure safe passage for all who traverse our roadways from Tractor-Trailers to Motor Cycles from young drives with lower skill to older drivers with diminishing reflexes all taking likely speed differential into account.

In the grand scheme of things, your life is but just a flash… 100 years ago no one anticipated your arrival and 100 years from now, no one is likely to remember you even existed. Every moment you spend on this earth should be for you, should be enjoyed, and your surroundings savored… put your Radar Detector in your trunk, slow down and enjoy life.

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#18
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/27/2015 8:18 AM

Nicely said!

I might add that if you do get pulled over you can't know if the officer did not just come from some horrid accident scene. Police are people too.

My wife's first day on the job as a paramedic was to respond to an SUV rollover. When she got there she saw this man kneeling over a doll in the middle of the road, but it wasn't a doll at all. It was his baby daughter's body. His only words he spoke were, "It's a bad day."

The thought of that makes me emotional, too, and it would strike me as odd if the police officer on the scene didn't feel the same.

Something to think about the next time you get stopped - what has that officer's eyes last seen before pulling you over?

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#19
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/27/2015 8:31 AM

Well done, sir! and salute! All of this relates back to the discussions about technology and morality. In other words, science and technology may well have outraced our levels of collective responsibility to the point where humanity is in a position to do himself (collectively) more harm than good. We can do so many great things using science and technology, but are we ready for them?

Putting a selfish, irresponsible person behind the wheel is tantamount to turning a kiddo with no firearms safety training loose with a Remington 7mm rifle. The likelihood of an injury or fatality just takes a quantum leap. On the other hand, take that same ignorant fool (a rebellious person), and really educate him (don't ask me how) about consequences that matter (having someone lose their life over a moment's poor choice), notwithstanding the legal aspects of being in jail, being in court, and then going to prison, maybe just maybe that same fool will suddenly become much wiser?

Any chance of that actually happening in the present context of our society? I don't know, but there is always hope while there is life.

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#21
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/27/2015 5:05 PM

I agree that most speed limits are there for good reasons but not always & I believe that drivers are more likely to speed if the limit seems inappropriate. As an example, a road I use on my daily commute had the limit changed from 60mph to 30mph last year. This is a reasonably straight, 2 lane road with no side roads or houses and no history of accidents. As a consequence most drivers are traveling at 40-60mph. The strangest part is that the 30mph limit ends as you get to a staggered junction with an industrial estate on each side, here the limit increases to 40mph then, once past the junctions, the limit reverts to the original 60mph. No logic to this at all.

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#22
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/27/2015 8:42 PM

The logic may have to do with the township or county having regulations that stipulate maximum speeds for roads that are in proximity to certain things or if the population density is greater than some threshold.

I've seen this in the States where the limit is dropped to a lower number while the passes a population center. The road has no more entries and exits, it just falls under a different jurisdiction.

In general, limits are set so that the lowest common denominator that just manages to pass their license exam can be expected to safely transverse that road.

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#23
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/28/2015 10:25 AM

Possible, housing developments have grown around that part of the road although none of them have direct access.

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#24
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Re: Radar vs. Radar Detector

03/28/2015 1:53 PM

The ordinances I was speaking about only require a population density threshold. Once crossed the maximum speed limit applied to all roads regardless of how or where they interconnected.

That may be the case for your situation, but I don't know.

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