The Scoop on Radar Detectors
The only reason people buy and use radar detectors is to avoid speeding tickets. The best advice I can give you regarding speeding is that you should always try your hardest not to drive over the speed limit. When you do drive over the speed limit, you’re putting your own life at risk as well as others around you. My suggestion is that if you like to drive fast, start visiting your closest racetrack. You may be wondering why I am telling you about radar detectors while I preach against speeding. The reason is simple, there is a ton of science behind how radars work, and I love science. I also understand if you’re someone that does their best to follow traffic laws and just want an extra heads to avoid being pulled over by the police due to an oversight. If I was going to buy a radar detector for personal use I would purchase an Escort radar detector.
Legalities of Radar Detectors
Within the United States of America, radar detectors are completely legal to own and use but in certain states and certain situations, there are exceptions.
Commercial Vehicles: There is a federal law stating that it is illegal for commercial vehicles that weight over 10,000 lbs to use radar detectors. This law applies to all states.
California and Minnesota: Radar detectors are legal in these states but it is illegal to mount to the front windshield. There are other states with laws in regards to “obstruction of view” so I would look into obstruction of view laws in whichever state I was in before mounting anything to my front windshield.
Illinois, New York, and New Jersey: In these 3 states it is illegal for any commercial vehicles to use radar detectors.
Virginia and Washington DC: Virginia is the one state that radar detectors are illegal to use. Radar detectors are also illegal to use in Washington DC.
Military Bases: It is illegal to use radar detectors while in US military bases.
Outside of the United States
Canada: Canada is more strict on the use of radar detectors than the United States. In Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan radar detectors are legal. In all other regions, radar detectors are illegal.
Europe: Radar detectors are legal in England and a handful of other European countries. I encourage you to check your federal and local laws before making a purchase.
How Do Radar Detectors Work
In order to understand how radar detectors work, you first must understand how radars work. R.A.D.A.R. stands for radio detection and ranging.
Radars emit radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves. Other electromagnetic waves include visible light waves, and microwaves. There are 7 total types of electromagnetic waves. There are two main parts of a radar. There is the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter has an electrified antenna which vibrates back and forth due to electrical current. The vibrations of the antenna create electromagnetic waves(radio waves). As used by police radars, the radio waves travel through the air, bounce off traveling cars, and some amount return to the receiver. The receiver measures the distance of the moving car and the speed it is traveling by determining the time it takes a series of waves to reach the receiver. Police began using radars in the 1940s and as technology advanced, the radar equipment became smaller and smaller.
Okay, now that we covered how radars work, I’ll explain how radar detectors work. Radar detectors work a lot like car radios. They are sensitive to electromagnetic waves and produce a result when they come into contact with electromagnetic waves. They also both have antennas which are affected by electromagnetic waves and measure the electromagnetic waves. The difference between the radio and the detector is that they interact with waves of different frequencies.
When you read about radar detectors you can’t help but to notice that they reference which bands they are capable of detecting. A “band” refers to a range of frequencies that the radar detector is capable of recognizing. The most common frequencies that you will see are X, K, Ka, and Ku. The x-band was the original range of frequencies used when radars first came into use by police. X-band is almost never used anymore because the radars that used the x-band were large and bulky. However, x-bands are still used within Ohio, New Jersey and certain rural areas. The radars used today are much smaller and more compact. K-bands are used in police radars only in select portions of the United States. The Ka-band is the band most commonly used in the USA and police throughout the world. The vast majority of police radars that you drive past in life will be using the Ka-band. The Ku-band is newer than the Ks-band but really isn’t used by the police in the United States. The reason is that the Ku-band doesn’t offer any improvement over the Ka-band. The Ku-band is used by police in some European countries. Regardless of which of these bands you encounter, most radar detectors have the ability to detect all of them. I wanted to give you an overview of the most commonly used radar bands so you have an idea about each of them when you see them listed on radar detector packaging. Many radar detector-using Americans turn off their detectors settings to sense all bands except the Ka-band. This is something that I advise against and will explain further down in this article.
Do Radar Detectors Detect Cop Cars
Radar detectors do not necessarily detect cop cars. Radar detectors detect radars. A particular cop car may not have a radar detector in it. The cop car may have a radar detector but it may be off as you drive past. If the radar detector is off, your radar detector will not detect it.
Do Radar Detectors Drain the Car Battery
Out of the box, radar detectors plug into the car’s cigarette lighter receptacle. If left on, they can continue to draw from the car’s battery while the car is off. Most of the time, radar detectors don’t completely drain the battery, even if left on overnight while the car is not running. Some people prefer the radar detector to turn off automatically when the car turns off. What these people do is hardwire it to a fuse circuit that is switched. People that do this are eager to point that it looks nicer not to have a wire running from your cigarette lighter. Either way, it makes a fun little project for a gear-head.
Cheap Vs Quality Radar Detectors
If you are someone that started shopping around for a radar detector you will probably notice that there is a wide range in price among varying detectors. The first assumption that a buyer makes is that cheap radar detectors don’t recognize as many radars as a quality detector. This is actually the opposite of the truth. Cheap radar detectors detect with just about the same accuracy as a superior detector. One main difference is that cheap radar detectors don’t have a built in filtering function. Filtering is the ability for a radar detector to recognize the source of the radar and only alert you when the source is coming from a police radar. If you purchase a cheap radar and start driving around you will quickly realize that it is practically worthless because it will be constantly alerting you when there are no police around. If you happen to read reviews about radar detectors you will likely see a portion of consumers stating that radar detectors are completely worthless due to the fact that they produce so many false alerts. What these people should be referring too is cheap radar detectors because that is the experience that they are describing accurately. Filtering is just one feature that differentiates cheap radar detectors from quality radar detectors.
Causes For Radar Detector False Alerts
There are many reasons why a radar detector can produce false alerts. When there is a false alert, the radar detector is picking up radio wave signals within the band ranges used by police radars. There are a number of other sources besides police radars that emit radio waves within the frequencies used by police radars. These sources include automatic braking systems, anti-collision systems, blind spot monitoring, automatic sliding doors, neon signs and even other radar detectors. False alerts can be very annoying and cause many drivers to turn off their radar detectors completely.
What Makes Escort Radar Detectors Great
Escort radar detectors are the top of line radar detectors in the world. As the mentioned above, a big reason is because of their ability to filter out all the false alerts and only alert you to only police radars. What makes Escort radar detectors the best at this is the fact that these devices store memory of where you drive. They actually store information from where you drive and track the irrelevant sources of radio waves and don’t alert for meaningless reasons.
Besides storing data from your drives, Escort radar detectors are also equipped with GPS chips. The GPS chip allows the data from your device to share information with Escort devices belonging to other Escort users through the Escort cloud and keep each other updated. Not only do these radar detectors share information about false alert sources, but they also update each other with the locations of speed cameras. This way you will know when you are approaching a speed camera.
Among radar detectors, Escort detectors offer the easiest setups. You open the box and they are ready to go as soon you mount it and power it up. As far as mounting, the harness is very secure and not flimsy. Other radar detectors have problems bouncing around during a drive and falling to the floor. This is not an issue with Escort detectors.
Escort Live App
When you purchase an Escort radar, they come with free, optional access to an app called “Escort Live”. The Escort Live app is a super cool feature. It displays on your phone and displays alerts from your radar detector as well as alerts from other Escort Live users.
Radar Detectors With Arrows
Something that is super annoying is that the majority of radar detectors on the market don’t have an arrow display to notify you which direction the police radar is transmitting from. Luckily, certain Escort radar detector models have an arrow display which will let you know if the radar is in front, behind, or on your side. This is an extremely helpful feature.
Other Escort Products
Escort offers other products besides radar detectors. These include high quality dash cams which are designed to used in conjunction with Escort radar detectors. The other product offered by Escort is a laser jammer.
Radar Detectors Vs Laser Jammers
Okay, so although it is possible to purchase a highly accurate, reliable radar detector, you are not completely safe from speeding tickets. Radar detectors are designed to alert you to police radars but they are not designed to protect you from laser jammers. Radars are much more commonly used by law enforcement than laser technology but I don’t want you to feel a false sense of security. Radar detectors are capable of alerting you to police lasers, but by the time they typically do, it is too late. This is because lasers work differently than radars. Lasers shoot a very thin beam of electromagnetic light and are not constantly on. Due to this, it is highly unlikely for your radar detector to alert you to a police laser until it is too late.
I am not going to recommend a laser jammer because they are illegal within the United States and expensive.
Summary: Scoop on Radar Detectors
- The best way to remain safe on the road is to avoid driving above the speed limit.
- If you feel compelled to get a radar detector, avoid the cheap models, as they cause too many false alerts.
- Escort radar detectors are awesome detectors because they are the best at filtering false alerts, and have a handful of other useful features.
- Using a radar detector does not make you completely immune to speeding tickets, as they will not be completely effective for use against law enforcement laser technology