Featured Articles

Radar Detectors: Yes Or No?

Posted in Car Tech, driving, Police, Safety by Kurt Ernst | February 25th, 2011 | 13 Responses |

The Valentine 1 radar detector: favorite of hoons everywhere.

There seem to be two schools of thought on radar detectors: the first says, “never leave home without it”, while the second says, “not for me”. I’ll admit to being in the latter camp myself, while Mike Musto is definitely in the former. I once got a ticket partially because the cop saw my radar detector cord, and in my mind they eliminate your ability to negotiate yourself out of a speeding ticket. The cop isn’t going to buy that you temporarily lost focus, because the radar detector shows intent to speed. Mike, on the other hand, can give you a long and substantial list of the times when a radar detector saved his bacon. Is one of us right and the other wrong?

Consider this: radar detectors and laser detectors can’t warn against an unfired signal or laser pulse (although some of the latest generation detectors do warn of speed trap locations). In order for these devices to work, someone has to get nailed, and if you’re the only car on the road chances are good that you’re it. In that regard, detectors can give a false sense of immunity, and they don’t do a thing to protect you from being paced by an unmarked car or aircraft. Radar detectors don’t eliminate your chance of a ticket, but there’s no doubt they reduce it under a very specific set of circumstances.

In certain parts of the country, PBA cards have merit during traffic stops, but only if you know the issuing officer. If he’s a patrolman, and he’s the friend of a friend of a friend’s girlfriend, don’t expect the card to do you much good. On the other hand, if he’s a ranking officer (sergeant, lieutenant, or captain) and you know him well, a PBA card can be golden. Ditto for family PBA cards, as long as it’s from an immediate family member. The downside is that PBA cards don’t necessarily work out of state; my New Jersey family PBA card probably won’t do me much good in Florida, unless I want a body cavity search (“We don’t like Yankees down here, boy. Now bend over, grab your ankles and squeal like a pig, because I guar-un-tee this is going to be uncomfortable.”).

So here’s the question: do you use a radar detector, and if so, which model? Do you like it or not? Would you buy it again if you had the chance, or would you opt for something else? Feel free to tell me if a radar detector kept you out of jail, or conversely, put you up at the iron bar inn.

Our Best Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

13 Responses

  1. Aaron says:

    I didnt know what a PBA card is untill it was mentioned here so i just googled it. Isnt that essentially bribing police? To the best of my knowledge such things dont exist here north of the border, but if i am misten, then my bad.

    As for radars, i live in a small town where there are no speed traps and cops are so obvious its easy not to get pulled over. In my opinion, if you drive like you need the radar detector, you should have to pay a premium on your license because one day youre going to do damage to someone. I was the victim of one such speeding related accident and spent 5 months in recovery. Both people in the other car died instantly.

    This is my opinion, speed limits and police officers are there for a reason.

    • turbosrt says:

      You do have a point but the problem with this now is catching speeders has become about revenue ($Billions$ every year in the US) and almost nothing about safety. It is now an excuse instead of like the old days where they would let you slide most of the time or wouldnt even bother stopping you. On a side note people like the reckless drivers you encountered deserve the tickets and traffic school but we are talking and idiot doing 60 in a 30 or weaving in and out of traffic etc. There is just no need to bring innocents into your fun and racing so please to any street racers out there keep it in the country and ease off when you see anyone but you and your opponent. Be smart.

      • Aaron says:

        that is a good point, and correct me if I’m wrong, the US has a lot of wide open stretches were high speed is safe (in the right vehicle) so I could technically see a use. But I’m all for driving according to the conditions, and in snowy climates, feeling immune to speeding tickets is a bad thing… Pavement is still great fun though

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Aaron, sorry for your experience at the hands of a reckless driver. I may be guilty of ignoring the speed limit on occasion, but I always do so in a safe manner. Like turbosrt said, down here speed enforcement is more about revenue than it is about safety.

      We have less wide open spaces than we used to down here, and driving in any big city is an eye-opening experience. Miami, for example, is one of the most dangerous U.S. cities I’ve ever driven in: 20% of the population refuses to drive above 50 mph on the highway, 70% of the population has a cell phone permanently affixed to their ear and 5% of the population thinks that the speed limit is redline in top gear. That leaves the remaining 5% of us to drive with our heads on a swivel, constantly looking for breaks in traffic while dodging inattentive drivers. Good times…

  2. tford says:

    If you’re driving cross country, radar detection is a must. If you see a cop, the first thing you do is take the radar detector down for the reasons you mention. Escort 9500, paid for itself 10X over.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      tford, when I did use a radar detector, it was a Passport Solo cordless one. I still pulled it down from the visor whenever I though I was going to be stopped.

  3. Canrith says:

    Escort 9500ci, display is integrated with my dash and looks the part due to the blue LED’s.

    Obviously, I’m in the never leave home without one group. It’s true that they are useless if you are they only one out, and the officer isn’t lazy and has kept the radar gun on. If they catch you before you know they are there, you are rightfully busted.

    An integrated system is actively looked over by many police because they do not know what to look for, and with many current cars, an LED dash is so common it would be easy for an enthusiast to miss noticing a cleverly hidden one on a passing glance.

    With many cities and towns strapped for cash, I would rather not be caught for doing 5mph over the speed limit and be forced to donate to their cause if it could have been avoided.

    As for all speeding being enough to cause a crash that bad, it just isn’t true. Everyone, and every car has their limits. Excessive speeding should never even be attempted on a public road, and restrained until you can get to a track to let it out. I am sorry that you were in an accident, sorry for the family who lost their loved ones as well, but not all speeding is to that extent. It is true that speed limits are there for a reason. It just happens to be revenue generation in all but the most extreme cases.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Canrith, I agree that an integrated unit is the way to go if you’re going to use a detector. Also agree that tickets are more about revenue generation than about safety. Consider this: most speed limits (except for interstates) were set when cars were far less capable than they are today, yet I’m not aware of any speed limits being changed upwards.

  4. mello702 says:

    I use V1 and love it. It won’t save your ass 100% of the time but you’ll usually get enough warning to adjust your driving style.

    You can’t rely solely on the detector though, it’s just another warning device and as a driver you must still remain vigilient.

    For example, you should always keep at least one or more cars in front of you. Also, it’s important to know the radio bands that are used for enforcement in your area and the departments who use them (for example, highway patrol uses Ka here, while metro uses K, except motorbike/handheld units which use Ka as well). That goes hand in hand with knowing your detector and what types of false positives it generates. There are quite a few buildings and devices that generate K band signals, but Ka is 99.9% of the time an enforcement unit. The V1 has a problem with Laser, GMC/Chevy trailblazer LED taillights will trip a false positive. My state does not use Laser at all, so it’s an instant ignore.

    In the end, it’s just another early warning device. Keep your eyes open, remember local hideout/enforcement spots, and remember the day of the month. Enforcement nearly doubles in the last week of the month in my area.

    The way I see it, at nearly $500 for the V1 and remote display kit, if it saves you one major ticket it’s paid for itself.

    Be safe and alert.

  5. Mark Smith says:

    Ask your wife about our experience with a Radar Detector while driving through Texas. I swear that Texas uses random Radar Generators just to slow traffic down!

    Do I use one? No. I don’t find that they are that much use in California.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      Mark, I seem to recall that was MY radar detector you borrowed. Which led to my future wife paying me in beer and Kahlua for my kindness. Which means our relationship is based on alcohol and breaking the law, truly the cornerstones of any solid marriage.

  6. Mason says:

    I use a Cobra XRS 930, but I didn’t buy it, a friend of mine actually bought it for me for Christmas a few years back because of all the traveling I did and I would sometimes… go a little over the speed limit. But I never felt the need to buy one before hand; in fact, I’ve only been pulled over one time before I had a radar detector, and one once after having the radar detector in about six years or so. Luckily, I got a warning both times, very thankful to this day.
    Here in Louisiana, cops like to hide in the middle of long stretches of interstate without any exits, with their lights off and wait to catch people. It has saved me many times, but it also helps me know what areas to watch out for. I could easily live without it, but I’ve taken it with me every time I’ve gotten a different car. I’ll keep it till it breaks and if the price is right, I might get another one.

  7. Taylor says:

    I tried one back in the late 80’s and very early 90’s. Never once warned against a cop but I’ll be damned if it wouldn’t pinpoint all the various things that used to send out false signals.

    I know the technology has improved considerably but I just don’t see a reason to pay for one.

    The way I see it, I drive like I do because I enjoy it. If I get caught I will pay my dues, almost like paying admission for track time.