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How a Radar Detector Can Save You From a Ticket

Updated on November 23, 2013

So, you're a bit of a speedster, and are constantly on the look out for the familiar police car when out for a drive. Or you've already wracked up quite a few speeding tickets. Maybe you drive safely, but like most drivers, have a tendency to speed up around familiar areas, like near where you live, and not even notice it! Either way, speeding tickets are never fun. And while seeing a police car is usually enough to make some people suddenly aware of their speed, some people need a little something extra to try and avoid that speeding ticket. That's where devices like radar and laser detection comes in.

But before we get to that, lets discus what happens when a police officer uses a radar or laser gun on your car.

A police officer pulled over this car for speeding.
A police officer pulled over this car for speeding.

Radar Speed Guns

This is what police officers use on your car in order to gauge how fast you are traveling. With as many head aches as this has caused people in the past, not many people are aware of how it works. To put it simply, a radar gun uses radiowaves that bounce off of your car and back to the gun's radio transmitter. The gun can then calculate how fast you are going depended on how fast the radio wave bounced back at the gun.

Police radar speed guns, while being responsible for so many motorist's being pulled over due to speeding, is also not as reliable as it seems. While the point of the radar speed detector being a "gun" is to aim and shoot at the intended target, it's not always accurate. The wave covers a broad range, not just the intended target, and can lead to false readings. For this reason, police enforcement agencies are beginning to rely on laser speed guns instead.

An Israeli police officer using a laser radar gun.
An Israeli police officer using a laser radar gun.

Laser Speed Guns

As most people know, a laser is concentrated light that can be directed at a target with high precision. They are used as pointers for CEO's, surgical equipment for doctors, and cat-annoying toys for pet owners. They also are used for a more precise speed gun, called a Ladar speed gun (or just a laser speed gun).

Because a laser is much more focused, it leads to a more precise reading than a radar gun can use, and it would be tougher to argue in traffic court that the police officer was reading the speed off the wrong car.

It works by measuring how fast the light of the laser is reflected back to the gun. Not only is this being used by police officers in hand, but it's so precise, that there are now automated systems in place that will measure your speed, take a picture of your driver's license if you are speeding, and then you will get a ticket in the mail complete with a picture of you and your car.

Careful! You don't want to be caught going 4 mph instead of 3 in this North Carolina town!
Careful! You don't want to be caught going 4 mph instead of 3 in this North Carolina town!

What States Are Laser Jammers Illegal In?

  • California
  • Utah
  • Texas
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

How to Fight Against It

Well, first of all, don't speed! But that can't always be helped. Between changing speed limits between cities, states, and certain areas; the misfortune of going faster in familiar areas; and whether conditions (like fog) tricking us into thinking we are going slower than we actually are; you may speed, and never realize it!

There are a few aids manufactured to try and help those who may at times speed. For one thing, laser shields, veils, and jammers have been produced to try and hide your car from laser guns. They work by sending out multiple lasers when a laser is detected, in order to jam the signal sent back to the gun. However, radar jammers are not legal in the United States by federal law, and laser jammers are not legal in some states.

Some manufacturers produce paint that will make it difficult for lasers and radar to bounce off of the car. There is even technology to mask your license plate should a camera catch you. But again, the legality of this products may vary, so check with your DMV if it is legal in your state.

What to do if you are pulled over

  1. pull over as quickly as safely possible.
  2. obey the laws by remembering you turn signals for lane changes.
  3. don't break quickly (as the police officer might accidentily ram you) or speed up (and make the officer think your running)
  4. pull over as far to the right as you can.
  5. Be nice - you will only have more to lose if you are rude or argumentative.
  6. Don't act suspiciously - cops never know what they are getting into when making a stop! Roll your window down all the way, turn off your engine, and hands on the steering wheel. Use your map light if it's dark.
  7. Don't make fast movements or go looking for things until you are asked for you license and registration. Again, the officer doesn't know what he gets into in traffic stops, and you may have a gun for all he knows.
  8. Don't get out of the car unless you are specifically asked.
  9. Don't be defensive or hostile, and don't talk unless spoken to. If you speak, speak politely - no need to pull out police jokes or respond with dripping sarcasm.
  10. If asked questions, keep your answers brief and non-commital. When asked, "Do you know how fast you were going," answer confidently saying, "Yes, I do."
  11. If you are accused of speeding don't argue. You can opt to simply say, "I see" or not say anything at all.

Radar and Laser Detectors

That brings us to radar detectors, probably the only item that is legal in almost all the states. Be sure to check with your local DMV to find out the legality of these objects before you go out and buy one. Often, they are legal in private cars, but illegal in commercial vehicles.

A radar detector is used to identify when a radar frequency range is being used in close proximity range to it, and then uses audio (beeping sound) and visual (blinking light) warnings to warn the driver that a radar is close by. A laser detector works in the same way, but mainly when a light is being focused at it. There are several different mounts for these devices - dashboard, sun visor, and windshield. While detectors are legal in most states, some states have laws against attaching items to your windshield, so be sure to check before purchasing.

Because radar and laser detectors are designed to have a certain amount of sensitivity to radar and laser lights, they often come with different modes for city and highway driving - city driving being less sensitive to stimuli than highway driving.

Of course, these items have certain limitations. For one, the laser detector does not work as efficiently as a radar detector for the simple fact that lasers are so precise, that it might not be picked up. Also, if you decide to invest in a combination laser and radar detector, make sure you do your research and get the best of the best, as sometimes the laser detector add on is not as efficient as it can be. There are some obvious limitations, say if you are stopped because a police officer is behind you or if you were the first one to have the device used on him - the device can't pick up a laser or radar quickly enough in this situation. Also, for those who think they can risk driving through a state that does not allow detectors, some police officers are equipped with radar detector detectors! So drive within the law! You really don't need the hefty fines or the increase in your insurance fees if you're caught with one.

Sure, you're a pro at seeing police cars, but what about police motorcycles?
Sure, you're a pro at seeing police cars, but what about police motorcycles?

Would You Get a Laser/Radar Detector?

See results

Where Can I Buy One?

Well, you can begin looking in the accessories section in auto shops in your area where these detectors are legal. If you are wanting to shop around some, and don't like being limited to your local store, there are plenty of places online where you can find detectors. For example, look on a company's website. You may be able to find good quality detectors there is they sell directly to consumers. You can also look on online stores. Since you want to get the best quality for your buck (remember, radar and laser combination detectors are much more efficient the higher quality they are), you can look on auto sites like Look into the quality of products sold in the stores you are perusing to know that you are getting a high quality product

Obeying the law is not always simple - sometimes we don't realize we've crossed a line until we get caught doing it! Being aware of your surroundings will help to keep your speed in check, but just in case, you can always have a little extra insurance to be sure you don't have to pay more in the end.


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