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Monthly Archives: February 2019

  • Getting the most out of your radar detector

    Five Radar DetectorsYou recently received a ticket and after the initial shock, decided to take action to prevent it from happening ever again. So, you purchased a radar detector. You researched the products thoroughly, shopped around, and after weighing all the features and options, you made your choice, and it was a good one. You know this, because everyone who already had one raved about it relentlessly. This was THE radar detector. The ONE. The open road was finally yours to conquer!

    Then it arrived. Excitedly, you set up your new radar detector, turned it on and took off for a test drive.

    And you got another ticket.

    Angrily, you yanked it off the dashboard, put it back in the box, and called the company so you could send it back, because it didn't work. It didn't prevent the ticket! Why?

    One of the most common misconconceptions about radar and laser detectors is that the mere presence of one in a vehicle guarantees you will get the advertised performance expected of it out of the box, automatically. However, there's more to it than that. A radar detector isn't just a device to detect radar. It's a tool, an instrument designed to perform a specialized function. As with any tool, it requires an operator to understand and to use it.

    A fine brush won't paint a masterpiece. A high-end guitar cannot play itself. (I was going to say piano, but a player piano actually can.) Like any precision tool or instrument, one has to know how to operate it properly. Just like the vehicle you drive, a radar detector must be learned, understood and properly used to get the most out of it.

    If you pass a patrol car or checkpoint of some sort and your detector doesn't go off, it could be due to a number of reasons. Here are some common questions to consider.

    Is the detector powered on?
    Is the detector properly installed or aimed to pick up the threat?
    Is it configured to detect the radar or laser band(s) used in your area?
    Is the detector configured to filter out or ignore those frequencies or that band?
    Is there anything in the way of the detector's sensors or antenna to deflect or block the incoming threat?
    Is the detector set to mute any audible or visual alerts?
    Is there even a radar gun in use?

    As you can see, there is more to using a radar detector than simply slapping it on the windshield or attaching it to the dash. Before blaming the detector, check your operation. Remember, the key to getting the most out of your radar detector starts with an understanding of how it works and learning how to work it.

    What radar detectors do
    A radar detector is designed to detect and alert the driver to a specific range of radio waves or frequencies used for Radio Detection and Ranging, or RADAR. If the detector is also designed to detect laser, it should detect frequencies in the infrared spectrum of pulsed laser light used for Light Detection and Ranging, or LIDAR, as well. Radar and Lidar are both line-of-sight, which means that they must be within the range and view of the detection device in order for the device to detect them. In short, a radar detector must be properly placed or installed in the vehicle to accurately detect radar and laser threats.

    What radar detectors don't do
    A radar detector detects radar, not cops. Police officers don't emit radar. Radar guns do. Unless the LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) has a radar gun hand, it is turned on and it is aimed down the road in your general direction, your radar detector is not going to detect it. Even if the radar gun is on and aimed directly at your vehicle, it will only detect the presence of the radar gun. It certainly won't detect the cop holding it.

    Also, be aware that there are other methods of traffic enforcement that don't utilize radar technology, such as VASCAR. If one or more of those methods are being used in the area through which you are traveling, your radar detector won't detect those, either.

    The types of radar bands
    There are specific radar bands and frequencies used for speed detection and enforcement.

    • X Band (10.525 GHz)
    • Ku Band (13.45 GHz)
    • K Band (24.1 GHz)
    • Ka Narrow Band (33.8-35.5 GHz)
    • Ka Wide Band (33.4-36 GHz)

    X band is an older band, and not used much by law enforcement in most areas. However, is still used occasionally in some rural locations, so it should not be completely ignored.

    K band is actively used by law enforcement, but is also often used by other radar emitting devices as well, such as vehicle assist systems and automatic door openers. This opens the door (pun intended) to false alerts, so some filtering of this band is needed.

    Ka band is popular with law enforcement today and is commonly used to detect speeders. If your detector is not properly set up to detect Ka, you will probably get a ticket if an officer tags you on that band.

    Ku band is used in Europe and is not used in the US. Unless you live in the EU, don't worry about Ku band.

    The difference between radar and laser detection
    Radar and Laser are two different methods used for speed enforcement, and each requires a different method of defense. Knowing the difference between the two can help you more effectively manage the operation of your detector to defend yourself against a speeding ticket.

    Radar signals are very wide, and cover a broad area. Radar is somewhat slow compared to Lidar (laser) and is the most common technology used by police for speed enforcement. It is also used for many other devices on or around roadways, including speed cameras, traffic monitoring systems and automatic door openers, to name a few. In addition, radar is used in vehicles for collision avoidance and driver assist systems. Because of this, the potential for false alerts has increased dramatically in recent years.

    Laser signals are very narrow, with a wavelength of about 900 nanometers (nm). They also travel at the speed of light, so they are extremely fast, allowing an officer to clock a driver in less than a second. This is a real danger to the driver, because it does not allow enough time to react to a laser alert. By the time you get the alert, the officer already tagged your speed. For this reason, radar detectors that also detect laser are often referred to as ticket notifiers. While not as commonly used by law enforcement as radar, its use is increasing. The threat from laser is real, and growing.

    If laser is used in your area of travel, it is advisable to include additional laser defense products in your countermeasure system, such as a laser jammer or Laser Veil.

    Optimizing range
    Some radar detectors have higher sensitivity than others, and can detect radar waves at greater distances. This is known as range. Choosing a detector with greater range can be a definite asset on the road.

    But sensitivity isn't the only factor in determining range, or performance. It also depends on where you mount your detector. The general rule of thumb is to mount it higher for radar detection only and lower for laser. The optimal position is to mount it centered in the vehicle, low to the dash, and close to the windshield, preferably directly to the windshield itself if laws allow. This allows the detector to have a wider field of view to detect both radar and laser threats from the front of the vehicle, where the majority of threats originate.

    Filtering out false alerts
    Great range alone won't do the job. Your detector also needs to determine the difference between a radar signal and a radar threat. As mentioned earlier, there are numerous sources of radar on the road and detecting or ignoring the wrong ones can confuse both you and your detector. It could also get you into trouble quick. This is why your detector should be configured and optimized to discern a false alert from a real one.

    There are many new technologies that utilize radar on the road. They need to be identified, some as real threats, and others to be filtered out. Technologies such as MultaRadar (MRCD and MRCT) are used with traffic and red light cameras and need to be identified. Radar used for collision avoidance systems and traffic assist on newer vehicles need to be filtered out. Many of these systems are fairly new, so older radar detectors do not have the ability to recognize them for what they are. If you have an basic detector or one that is very old, there is a good chance it will either alert you to everything, or not alert you at all. Either way, it won't do the job.

    Newer detectors, such as the Radenso Pro M or the Uniden R3, are designed with advanced filtering for many of these systems built-in, allowing you to adjust and optimize your detection system to filter out the noise and detect the real threats for maximum protection.

    When to be confident
    The time to be confident is when driving in normal traffic, with vehicles all around you. This is an optimal scenario for a radar detector because it would likely go off when a LEO tags a vehicle in front of you, behind you, or in the next lane. That warning should provide ample time to check your speed and avoid a ticket yourself, before the radar gun is aimed at you.

    When to be cautious
    The time to be most cautious is when traffic is light, there aren't cars ahead of you, or you are traveling on a lonely road. With few or no other vehicles around, your vehicle is most likely to be tagged by a LEO. While not completely ineffective, in such cases a radar detector is not going to be much help on its own, especially if a police officer is using an instant-on radar gun or laser gun to tag you. In this scenario, you need to stay alert, watch your speed and ease off the pedal when approaching curves, hills or potential roadside obstructions where a LEO could hide.

    Use common sense
    A radar detector by itself will not prevent you from getting a ticket. As we've said many times, it is only one component of a complete ticket protection system, albeit a very important one. simply pulling a budget bubble pack unit from the shelf and putting it on your dash isn't going to do the job. You need to learn how it works, learn how to work it, and operate both it and your vehicle using a common sense approach for every unique situation on the road. In other words, drive smart. Only then can your radar detector help you avoid a speeding ticket.

  • Choosing the right radar detector

    Radar Detector PuzzleSo, you want to buy a radar detector, but you don't know where to begin. You're not alone. It's a common dilemma faced by many drivers, usually after they've received an unexpected and very expensive speeding ticket. Indeed, choosing the right radar detector is very important, as it can mean the difference between getting a ticket protector, and ticket collector.

    There are many radar detectors on the market, and they vary greatly in form, features, and function. There are some good detectors, and some great detectors. There are also some marginal models, and some very poor performers. Not surprisingly, there is also a wide variance in price. There are premium priced radar detectors with premium features, and low priced models with few or no frills.

    But don't let the prices fool you. There may be more value in that discount detector than detectable by the lower price. Conversely, there are a lot of bells and whistles (pun intended) on current high priced models, some of which are important and some of which are not worth your money or your time. Just because it costs more doesn't necessarily mean it's the best radar detector, or even a good detector for you.

    So, how do you choose? Before you plunk down some serious dough for a detector, it's important to know how to choose the right detector for your situation or your needs. When choosing a radar detector, here are the key differentiators to consider.

    Performance / Range
    We're going to start with the hard one: range. The range, or what some manufacturers term the performance of your detector, directly determines how much time you have to react to a radar alert. Range refers to the distance a radar detector can detect a potential radar threat. The farther away it can detect the radar, the greater the range. The greater the range, the more time you have to react. You need to know that there is a police officer ahead before he has a chance to get your speed, and a half mile of warning is much better than 500 feet.

    Okay, so what is so hard about range? It's not an easy thing to measure, so most people aren't going to be able to figure out for themselves if one radar detector has better range than another. If you search around for performance information online, you'll find that most of the published results are performed by companies paid by detector manufacturers, radar detector dealers, or affiliates of dealers. How can you trust results when there is possibly a big incentive for a reviewer to be dishonest? You're starting to see the problem.

    So, what do we recommend? Don't simply rely on the words "high performance" printed on the box. We think the best route is to study the results of several tests and look for consistent performers and outliers.

    Filtering
    This one may be listed second, but it's just as important as range. Police radar guns use X, K, and Ka band radar, but they're not the only devices that use these radar bands. Automatic doors, traffic sensors and driver assist features on other vehicles are just a few possible sources of radar detector interference. If your detector isn't properly filtering out this interference, you're going to hear dreaded false alerts. What happens when your detector gives you lots of false alerts? That's right, you'll train yourself to ignore them all. This is a bad habit, and a potentially dangerous one, because the next alert you ignore could be your next ticket!

    If you're going to buy a radar detector, get one that you can trust. You'll thank us later.

    GPS
    GPS is not an absolutely essential feature, but if you have room in your budget then we would recommend it. The following are several nice features that are enabled by GPS, but please note that not all GPS enabled radar detectors support all of these features.

    • Camera Database - A built-in, updateable list of the locations of fixed red light and speed cameras in the country. Red light cameras don't use radar or laser, so keep in mind a radar detector alone will not detect or alert you to them.
    • Marking False Alert Locations - A false alert can be blocked based upon the location and the band. If you drive the same route often, this can seriously cut down on noise.
    • Speed Based Alerts - GPS enabled detectors know your speed, so they can lower sensitivity or mute themselves when you're stopped or driving slowly.

    Smartphone Connectivity
    The ability to connect to a smartphone gives a detector access to the internet. From there, it can share your alerts to the cloud and bring down alerts from other drivers. This has the effect of extending the range of your detector.

    Some radar detectors use the phone to provide GPS data. This allows them to offer GPS features without the need for a built-in GPS chip, which can save you money.

    Display
    You'll see some detectors with fancy, large, full color screens. While those are certainly nice and easy on the eyes, we wouldn't classify the display as a critical feature. Remember, you're driving. Your eyes should naturally be focused on watching the road, not your radar detector. As the responsible driver you are, you'll be listening much more than watching. More important than general screen fanciness is its visibility and how it handles glare.

    Directional Arrows
    This is not a critical feature. Radar detectors with directional arrows will show you which direction that the radar detector signal is coming from. It is nice to know if the officer is behind you or ahead of you, but only the most expensive models currently have this feature, so for many it might not be worth the added expense. Bonus tip: in order for a radar detector to know which direction the signal is coming from, it has to have both a front and a rear facing antenna. Most detectors only have a front facing antenna, so getting a model with directional arrows should also mean you're getting great rear range!

    Compass
    Don't choose a radar detector model just because it also has a compass. While it can be a useful feature for general navigation, it isn't needed for a radar detector to operate effectively, and it won't help you avoid a speeding ticket. If you want a compass that badly, just buy one. They're cheap.

    Choosing the right radar detector isn't rocket science, but it does require more effort than referencing a simple comparison chart or a list of prices. You need to consider range, filtering and other key functions, decide which features you really need, and work within your budget from there. By extending your range with research and filtering through the hype, you can choose the right radar detector that will be your ticket protector.

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