A few things to know if considering a radar detector

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Radar detector

A radar detector might seem like a good buy, but there are a few things one should know. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Speeding tickets are a pain and since some people would rather use a high-tech solution than cure their lead feet, so they plunk down some cash on radar detectors. The devices can read if a police officer is lying in wait in a speed trap ahead, but there are some things to know about taking the plunge.

Avoiding fines from Johnny Law with radar detectors

Before getting to the bits about radar detectors, bear in mind that the best way to avoid fines is a simple one, namely not breaking the law. Cruise control which will help immensely.

Conversely, not every speed limit sign is placed in such a manner that it’s easily seen. Also, since tickets are definitely a revenue generator for governments, the profit motive and law enforcement cannot be decoupled. Ergo, radar detectors aren’t always a bad idea if a person has just left a Houston, Tex., Portland, Ore., or Atlanta, Ga., Scion dealership with a new FR-S and doesn’t want to get stung with tickets.

But first

But first, some science! According to AOL, radar speed detectors, i.e. the ones the cops use, work by “bouncing” electromagnetic radiation off an object and reading the interval between the waves bouncing back. They have certain frequencies or bands, dedicated to them by the Federal Communications Commission.

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Most police detectors use X band, K band, and Ka band.  Radar detectors work by reading these frequencies and reporting to the driver of their proximity. Some detectors also have built-in GPS functions, which will alert motorists to known upcoming speed traps. Radar detectors are illegal for commercial vehicles and illegal for personal vehicles in Virginia, Washington D.C., and on military bases.

There are also radar jammers. Jammers interfere with the signal at the source, which is an unauthorized broadcast and a felony violation of the Federal Communications Commission Act.

It can project a spot on the moon

Many troopers also use a laser ranging system, called Light Detection and Ranging, often referred to as lidar, much more accurate than using actual radar.

Laser jammers, on the other hand, are legal except in California, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington, D.C. These devices, upon detecting lidar, begin blinking LED lights. It’s the equivalent of the laser looking at the sun; it prevents a reading from registering. One such system, on a selection of radar and laser detectors on the Popular Mechanics website, also doubles as a range finder when parking.

Not the end all

Mlive.com, a Michigan news site that’s also the home site of several Michigan newspapers, interviewed Mike Church, a sergeant in the Michigan State Police, on the subject and he had a few things to say. Among other things, he offered that radar detectors might not be as worthy an investment as some think against speeding tickets, for several reasons.

First of all, radar guns have triggers. Officers don’t turn them on until they are looking at a particular vehicle, meaning its likely that a detector might not go off until your car’s speed has already been checked. Second, brake lights suddenly illuminating are a dead giveaway that a person is slowing down. Also, many police check speed by pacing a driver and there are no “speedometer detectors.” The best defense, Church says, is to not break the law.

Sources

AOL Autos

Mlive

AOL Autos

Popular Mechanics: http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/products/skip-the-speed-traps-the-top-radar-detector-tech#slide-1

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