Are radar detectors still worth it in the modern world? Our sources say yes.
Radar detectors were first made widely available in the late 1960s. Although some earlier designs existed, this version was the first one that really worked. The inventor, Dale Smith, wanted to use his electronics knowledge to avoid unfair speeding tickets.
Radar-revolutionary on the glass of the car, Car Radar Detector, Speed sensor.
Soon, people started to catch onto the benefits of radar detectors, and they’ve been helping drivers ever since. Do radar detectors really work, and are radar detectors worth it in the modern-day? We’ve got the answers to your radar detector questions — keep reading to learn more.
What are Radar Detectors?
In short, radar detectors provide drivers with an electronic way to tell if police are checking their speed with a radar gun.
The goal of a radar detector is to let you slow down before the police can tell that you’re speeding. Needless to say, the police have tried to invent ways to make radar detectors useless. But radar detector technology has also advanced to keep up with police technology.
How Radar Detectors Work
It’s easy to understand what a radar detector is meant to do. But even if you’ve used one before, you might not understand just how they work. Let’s take a deeper look.
Most police radars can track both your speed and your distance, using radio waves. Radar detectors find radars by detecting the radio waves that they send out.
In that way, radar detectors are actually just a type of radio receiver: they take in the waves that the radar puts out, letting you know there’s a radar nearby. However, the exact detection mechanism depends on the type of radar police are using.
For example, today’s police forces often use laser speed guns, rather than traditional radar guns. Laser detectors work differently than radar detectors, but they both have the same goal.
To work well, radar detectors need to pick up the radio signal while the police are still far away. This means that they can’t work every time. If the police are already targeting you, they probably have the information they need to give you a ticket. But if they’re just keeping the radar running, you can often slow down before they catch you.
Newer, fancier types of detectors can even help scramble the signal the radar gives, to make you even harder to track. However, these devices are illegal in many places.
Are Radar Detectors Worth It?
Wondering if a radar detector is right for you? Let’s take a look at all the reasons why a radar detector can still be worthwhile in spite of modern police technology.
1. They’re Legal
First and foremost, let’s clear up one of the most common misconceptions about radar detectors.
Many people think they’re illegal. While radar jammers and things that interfere with police tech aren’t legal, detectors are legal in almost every state. The only two places you can’t use radar detectors are all are Virginia and Washington D.C.
Of course, there are still some restrictions on the use of detectors. For example, they’re typically not legal in commercial vehicles. However, in personal vehicles, they’re usually allowed, and cops can’t legally confiscate them.
2. They Reduce Tickets
The most obvious benefit of a radar detector is that they help you avoid speeding tickets.
Sure, they may not work every single time. But avoiding some tickets is still better than avoiding none of them.
When police use radar, they’re basically casting a net in which to catch speeders. With a detector, you can almost always see the “net” before you run into it. Their radars usually reach farther out than they can see, so it’s not likely that a cop will be targeting you specifically until you get closer. And by that time, you’ll already have reduced your speed.
3. They Work in All Weather
Another common radar detector misconception is that bad weather causes them not to work.
However, radio waves can penetrate all kinds of weather conditions. As long as the radio waves get through, your detector will still work. Rain, storm, or shine, you’ll be getting fewer speeding tickets.
4. They Can Give Warnings
Contrary to popular belief, radar detectors don’t make people drive faster. In fact, some versions will give you a warning when you exceed a certain speed. This can actually help you keep an eye on your speed and slow down when you need to.
5. They Improve Safety
When people see a police car on the side of the road, their first instinct is often to brake reactively. However, this can cause accidents by creating a sudden change that other drivers weren’t prepared for.
A radar detector will prepare you for the police presence before you see the cop car. That way, you won’t make any sudden movements that could put you or other drivers in danger.
6. They’ll Save You Money
Unfortunately, inexpensive, low-end radar detectors just don’t work well. You’ll need to spend quite a bit to get a good one. However, consider it an investment: you’ll save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run.
Speeding tickets can add up fast. They often come with expensive repercussions, like points on your license. And the more tickets you get, the more costly they tend to be. When you compare the cost of a radar detector to the cost of even just a few tickets, the right choice becomes clear.
Where Can You Buy Radar Detectors?
Radar detectors aren’t secretive, black-market items. They’re perfectly legal tools that can help you stay safe and avoid tickets when you drive. If you drive regularly or make long trips, a radar detector should be a regular installation in your car.
Not sure where to find a radar detector? Check out our buying guide to learn where to look.