Radar Detectors – What Are They?
They’re touted as nearly foolproof ways to avoid having excessive speeds detected by law enforcement. Many drivers swear by them to ensure they don’t get caught going a little faster than the posted limit. But what the heck are they?
In a nutshell, radar detectors are devices that allow motorists to know if their speed is being monitored by law enforcement. Somewhat of an all-encompassing term, radar detectors include a number of different devices meant to combat the varying types of speed detection devices law enforcement uses in different parts of the country. The technology, in fact, is so varied that what the police use can be different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
In the more common and earliest form, radar detection devices were simply pieces of electronic equipment that could tell when police were using a radio wave radar gun to clock driver’s speeds. These early devices law enforcement tools, which are still in use in some jurisdictions, use the Doppler Shift to clock speeds. The more common technologies used by law enforcement today use different wavelength bands, generally K, X and Ka.
Other forms of police speed detection include a laser light that does not rely on radio waves at all, and photo lidar, which employs similar technology .These use light, which can be focused by law enforcement below the general mounting level of many detection devices, to clock speeds.
The devices for blocking and/or detecting these technologies are called in general radar detectors by lay people. Old fashion radar detectors simply let drivers know if radio waves were being used. If so, they warned a driver to slow down. And while they may seem antiquated with laser’s presence, they’re still in use and shouldn’t be discounted.
Laser detectors work by sensing the infrared light emitted by police devices. There are even devices available that reportedly scramble or block the lasers from working. While laser is the technology of the future, keep in mind a lot of places use a combination of the two or just the radar still due to costs involved.
The actual reliability of the different detection devices depends on a number of factors. No detector in the world can stop a driver from avoiding a ticket if speeds are so excessive law enforcement can actually see, based on the speeds of other cars around, that a car is going way too fast. Plus, there’s the simple fact that a detector cannot work in a driver’s favor if an accident results from speeds. Even with a detector, it’s a good idea to drive smartly and safely.
While there are newer technologies in use by law enforcement, including the laser, the effectiveness of detection technologies depends on what’s used by the driver versus what law enforcement in the area is using. The most common form of speed clocking by law enforcement remains the radar, however, but in larger areas where budgets might be higher, lasers are employed.
A smart driver will try to protect against all eventualities and drive defensively and safely.