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Radar Detectors - Friend or Foe?

By Richard Wallace II
Author of "An Educated Guide to Speeding Tickets-How to Beat & Avoid Them!"

This is the third in a continuing series of articles I will be writing for Danny Feemster, Cricket Ventures and his fantastic website BuyRadarDetectors.com. As many of you will recall, my first and second articles, which can still be viewed here on this website, talked about the basics involved with beating a speeding ticket and how one can learn to speed without getting caught respectively.

In this, the third article in the series, we will ponder this thought; "Radar Detectors-Friend or Foe?" Well, in this authors opinion, a radar detector is definitely a friend of the motorist and I hope once you have read this article, you will agree with me.

Common Misbeliefs

There are just as many proponents as there are opponents of radar detectors and for a variety of reasons. Some special interest groups claim that radar detectors cause people to speed and cause accidents. There is no evidence to date that radar detectors cause higher speeds or play a significant role in causing widespread accidents. This does not say that there are not people who possess detectors who drive hostile and dangerously. This is of course true. Some of these drivers undoubtedly believe that by having a radar detector they are immune from being stopped and issued a speeding ticket until it happens. It is then they will realize they are just as susceptible to being caught for speeding as somebody who drives without a radar detector. Such gross driving habits will come to the attention of law enforcement with or without the operator possessing a radar detector.

Average traffic speeds are determined by the public's own view of what they perceive to be safe and reasonable at the time. Radar detector owners are generally safe drivers. Some surveys have shown that drivers whom used detectors had fewer accidents per mile than non-owners and drove more miles between accidents and also and more often wear their seat belts.

Radar Detector Basics

Lets talk a little about what a radar detector actually is. Basically, a radar detector is a radio-like device that scans back and forth between several programmed frequencies that are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to law enforcement agencies nationwide. Police radar itself is nothing but a device that emits a radio wave that monitors the speed of vehicles and we call it police radar. A radar detector is a device that picks up those police radar radio waves and then alerts you to the presence of the police radar. Most all radar detectors today also include the ability to detect laser (lidar) speed detection devices. Laser is a piece of equipment that sends out beams of light as opposed to radar's radio waves; that refracts and reflects off the violator/speeding vehicle which then return to the laser unit. Speed is then calculated by measuring how quickly these pulses of light are reflected given the known speed of light. A good radar detector will have the ability to detect and pick up all frequencies of police radar as well as laser.

The Insurance Lobby's Fight To Ban Radar Detectors

There are many who feel that banning radar detectors will make the "unsafe" driver become a "safe" driver. Only education and sound enforcement programs will accomplish that. Nonetheless, every year insurance lobbyists in many states try to pass legislation that will ban the radar detector. More than 100 attempts to ban radar detectors have taken place in different states over the years and all have been defeated. Only Virginia and the District of Columbia now ban radar detectors. All states however, have bans on detectors for operators of commercial vehicles like tractor-trailer operators. Today insurance company lobbyists actively promote such goals as mandatory insurance coverage and increased use of surcharges, which only better themselves, not their clients. It is the insurance companies who are speaking out in favor of bans on radar detectors, saying they encourage speeding. Again, studies have shown nothing of the kind, yet the media takes this misrepresentation and reports on it, and starts the calling for bans on radar detectors. Would it surprise you to know that a few of the largest insurance companies routinely donate police radar and laser guns to law enforcement agencies throughout the Unites States every year? They claim it is done for the benefit of public safety when in reality it is done to increase the amount of insurance surcharge revenue they take in yearly.

Dozens of traffic experts and engineers have done studies that show the facts to be a little clearer than the insurance industry would like us to believe. Simply put, radar detectors alone have no influence on the traffic speeds or accidents. Further, the use of police radar by law enforcement does little to slow the speed of traffic upon our highways. These traffic experts know most people drive a safe and reasonable speed even if it exceeds the posted speed limit and that by merely possessing a radar detector, one does not automatically become a speeding reckless driver, or one who increases the risk for an accident.

Speeding tickets are a basis for money making for the state, city or town and the insurance companies. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a multi-million dollar tax-exempt agency uses its resources to promote unrealistically low speed limits, combined with covert methods of enforcement, only for the safe of lining its own pockets.

Why Do I Need A Radar Detector?

Ok, so why own a radar detector in the first place? Well the simple answer to that is it will greatly help to reduce your chances of being stopped for speeding by members of law enforcement provided you use it wisely and responsibly. A high quality radar detector will warn you in advance of a radar speed trap ahead as well as to the existence of police laser that may be in use also. A good detector will actually detect the presence of police radar before you actually observe the police officer and of course before he observes you. When laser is being used however, be very careful to watch for the laser alert mode of your detector. Laser, when being used, is shot directly at your front license plate, in other words as the officer is aiming the laser gun at your vehicle and "see's" you, you also have just observed him and so has your radar/laser detector. You could only have a fraction of a second to correct your speed when law enforcement is using laser so be careful and stay alert. Fortunately, use of laser by police is still very rare. Pay particular attention to the brake lights of vehicles in front of you on the highway, they are braking for a reason and it may be because they have observed a police officer ahead operating radar or laser so you may want to slow your speed down until you can be sure it is ok to speed through a particular area.

A Detector Can Save You $$$

No article about the pro’s and con’s of owning a radar detector would be complete without discussing the financial consequences one would likely not face if they owned a high quality radar detector. You see, the average speeding ticket issued today is around $150.00 and when you add the insurance company surcharges that are imposed for between 3 and 5 years depending on the state you reside in, that average around $125.00 per year, your overall total financial liability for just one speeding ticket ranges from $525.00-$775.00! Compare that to the few hundred dollars you would spend on a high quality radar detector and you come out well ahead of the game. Owning a radar detector makes good sense and I highly recommend it.

The use of a high quality radar/laser detector coupled with my tips, tactics and strategies as discussed in my second article as well as in my book will greatly reduce your chances of getting stopped and ticketed by members of law enforcement. I highly recommend everybody purchase a high quality radar/laser detector today to better help them avoid the costly speeding ticket and subsequent insurance surcharges that follow. Your best source for the purchase of a high quality radar detector is right here at BuyRadarDetectors.com. They have the greatest selection and the best prices on the web. For a complete list of all of my tips, tactics & strategies, please pick up a copy of my book "An Educated Guide..." also right here at Buy Radar Detectors. The book is full of very valuable information on the equipment the police are using today, how one should conduct themselves at the scene of a traffic stop which may get them out of a speeding ticket, how to challenge and beat any speeding ticket in a court of law, and of course, how one can speed without getting caught.

Some Final Tips

If the unfortunate does happen and you get stopped for speeding, make sure you remain calm, be polite, cooperate, admit nothing including your speed, and if you plan to use an excuse, be sure it touches the emotions of the officer and it could work and get you out of a speeding ticket. Do not be afraid to ask for a break or an oral/written warning, and yes you can do this.

In closing, I hope I have brought you to a better understanding about the use and ownership of a high quality radar/laser detector. When used correctly and responsibly they work and work well! I hope you can use some of this information and become a safer more efficient speeder while using a radar detector. Remember, it takes time, practice and effort. Traveling at high rates of speed may not get you anyplace faster and could even get you a speeding ticket or cost you your life. So speed wisely, safely and always watch out for the other guy. Thank you for taking the time to read this article, watch for the next in this series and God Bless us all.