Radar Detector Facts & Comparisons

Over the years law enforcement agencies and civilian technology solutions have been engaging in a form of electronic warfare when it comes to radar guns and detectors.  When civilians have easy access to a device that can give them enough advance warning of a speed trap to lower their speeds, law enforcement agencies begin to look for alternate technology for their speed cameras to make these detectors useless.  New detectors are created and marketed so the whole cycle can begin again.

A radar detector is a passive electronic device that detects if a radar gun is being used in the area or directed at their vehicle.  It will give the driver an advance auditory warning and allow them to correct their speed before they come into the area that the police are monitoring or a stationary speed camera is setup.

The most common radar device used by law enforcement agencies uses a doppler radar to emit a radio wave in the direction of a moving vehicle.  By measuring the moderated change in this radio wave, the radar gun can calculate the moving vehicle’s speed and deliver an accurate digital readout.  In the case of radar devices mounted in stationary objects such as traffic lights or roadside radar boxes, the result is recorded and a signal is sent to photograph or use license plate recognition technology to record the offending vehicle.

Radar detectors are equipped with a superheterodyne receiver used to detect the emissions from the radar gun and alert the driver to the possibility of a speed trap up ahead.  False alarms can be triggered if there are a large number of electronic devices in the area, especially items that operate in the same radio frequency as the speed guns.  An example of this would be security systems which are known to cause false detections, especially in commercial and industrial areas where there will be a number of units concentrated in the same area.  If your radar detector unit is equipped with a GPS unit, they may give you an option of recording areas where you frequently get false readings and instruct the detector to ignore it.

Another benefit of having GPS functionality is that it allows you to record common speed trap areas for future reference.  As you come upon an area that is frequently used by police to catch speeding vehicles, the radar detector emits a signal warning you of this.  Additionally some units have the capability of downloading databases with the co-ordinates recorded by other users of devices from the same manufacturer.  This is especially useful if you are traveling or visiting an area that you don’t usually frequent.

old-whistler-radar-detector-obseleteThe Multanova Speed Camera 6F was an advance in radar technology that was undetectable for a period of time until radar detector manufacturers came up with a solution to the changes.  This particular radar unit is generally stationary and located in roadside locations in boxes or parked vehicles.  Operating at a different radio frequency then conventional radar guns, this unit was able to detect a speeding car and use photography and license plate recognition technology to record the identification of the speeding vehicle.  These particular units can also be setup to detect the speed of your vehicle by sending the signal to the back of your vehicle.  If you do not have an extremely sensitive radar detector, you will not receive the warning until it’s too late as the signal is not being directed at the front of your vehicle.

The latest device used by law enforcement agencies to catch speeding vehicles uses LIDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging.  Instead of utilizing radio waves to measure the speed of an oncoming vehicle, LIDAR devices use a pulsed laser light to measure and calculate your vehicle’s speed.  While the radar detector can easily identify radio waves from great distances due to the expansive nature of the signal, LIDAR uses a very focused beam that is hard to identify until you are too close to alter your speed.  This focused beam will only diffuse to about 6 feet from its source whereas a radio wave can expand as much as 85 feet.  Effectively detecting a LIDAR radar trap in enough time to alter your speed is much more difficult then the conventional radar guns.  Thankfully LIDAR units are quite expensive to purchase so a majority of local authorities still rely on the radio radar technology.

If you’re looking at purchasing a radar detector, don’t be lured in by a cheap model that claims to detect all the same types of signals as a more expensive unit.  The primary function of the device is to detect microwave frequencies, or electromagnetic waves that the radar guns emit in their pursuit of capturing speeding vehicles.  Cheaper radar detectors use electronic components that are of a lesser quality then more expensive units that can cause a number of difficulties.  For instance, using a cheap superheterodyne receiver can lessen the radar detectors overall sensitivity, range and reliability.  If it cannot detect the radio signal at a sufficient distance, you will be unable to brake in enough time to avoid a speeding ticket.

valentine-one-new-radar-detector1There are many varying qualities of radar detectors and it is always a good idea to ask for expert advice and user reviews.  This is especially true with those used to detect the Multanova Speed Camera 6F as units from different manufacturers will have a much different level of sensitivity and range as the signal is not always directed towards the front of your vehicle.  Ideally you would like to have as much advance notice so you can brake accordingly.  You can expect to pay more for top of the line radar detection devices but you will also be getting the advanced technology behind it.  User reviews are a great resource when it comes to helping you select the unit that’s right for you as they are relaying first hand experience.

When trying to justify the cost of purchasing a more expensive and higher quality radar detector, be sure to remember what your costs would be if you did receive a speeding ticket including the possibility of losing your license and the increased cost of vehicle insurance.