Are Radar Detectors Worth It?
Did you know that around 41 million speeding tickets are issued every year in the US? Perhaps per personal experience and assessment, you have proven or foresee yourself as 1 out of 5 drivers that will get a speeding ticket this year. That’s why you’re here, asking yourself, “Are radar detectors worth it?”
Before we weigh in on whether a radar detector is worth the investment, here are some not-so-fun facts about speeding tickets:
- In the US, the average cost of a speeding ticket is pegged at $150. That’s also the average weekly grocery bill for a family of four!
- In some European countries, fines are based on how much money the driver makes. Take for example Nokia executive Anssi Vanjoki who was fined 116,000 euros in Finland and a repeat offender Swiss millionaire who had to pay £180,000 in fines.
- Speeding ticket fines rake in a whopping $6.2 billion of revenues in the US.
- Besides fines, a speeding ticket may cost you jail time or required community service depending on national or state laws.
In this light, it seems like the answer to the question is pretty obvious. Whether you live in the US or Europe, making big bucks or not, radar detectors can save you some moolah especially if you’re somewhat—to put it gently—lead-footed. That’s, of course, if they work, which then brings us to our second question.
How Do Radar Detectors Work?
When a radar-gun-wielding traffic police officer fires at your direction, a concentrated radio wave in X, K, Ka, or Ku band is set in motion. When it hits your car, some of the electromagnetic energy ripples back to the police’s radar device. This speedy going back and forth of radio signal helps the speed gun to calculate your speed.
Now, if your car is equipped with a radar detector, then it can sense these ripples of energy signals even when you’re not the direct target. It then sends off an alarm that a radar gun is in operation. How well it can detect the radar gun signals depends on the waveband compatibility of your radar detector with the one the police are using.
Say, if you have a radar detector operating in a wide range of frequencies, then it may catch X to Ku band radar guns. But if you have decided to switch off the X band frequency while an X band radar gun is in operation, then you won’t receive a warning of the speed check going on in the area. That’s just the simplistic way of putting it.
It can be more complicated than that. For one, if you’re already a direct target of the radar gun, then your radar detector is of little use. Its warning would come in a bit too late. By the time you’ve decided to slow down, the traffic police would already have a smug look on the face and asking you to pull over.
There are two instances that radar detectors can work for you. One is by catching scatter signals. It means you were driving near a targeted vehicle. In such an instance, you can get sufficient warning. Two is when a radar gun is pulsating a signal continuously. As soon as you enter the fringes of the radar gun’s zone, your radar detector can detect it and warn you that you are entering a speed trap area. However, recent instant-on radar guns now make the second scenario less of an advantage to speeders driving radar-detector equipped vehicles.
What Are the Recent Developments in the Field?
Since the development of X band radar guns in the 1950s, a lot of developments have taken place both in the radar gun and radar detector technology. From X band radar guns and radar detectors, there are now Ka and Ku band speed guns and detection tools.
In fact, some departments have already moved on from using the rather rough radar technology to the more sophisticated laser technology. With the capacity to be more precise and to produce less scatter, laser guns up the game to a whole new dimension. So, if you are entering or living in an area where the police force has already given up their radar speed guns in exchange for the laser ones, then equipping your car with a radar detector—even if it’s high-end—is of little use to you.
It would benefit you then to do more research, especially on what types of speed guns are used in your area, before committing to a speed gun detection tool.
Besides Radar Detectors, How Else Can You Dodge a Speeding Ticket?
Well, the obvious answer is to slow down. But if driving fast is something that you can’t be deterred from, then mobile apps like Waze can certainly help. This free app allows you to share and receive important road information, from traffic and road hazards to speed traps!
So, with the Changing Milieu, are Radar Detectors Worth It?
There’s no easy answer to the question. It depends on some factors, from the reality of the field to personal preferences and needs. To help you through with your decision, here are a few questions for you:
- How often do you get a speeding ticket and how much does it cost you?
- Is the detection tool going to pay for itself? If yes, then how soon?
- What kind of speed guns are police using in areas where you frequently travel?
- Are radar detectors legal to use in your area?
- If you’re getting a radar gun, then what type and how much is your budget?
So, are radar detectors worth it despite the emergence of new technologies? Yes, a radar detector may come in handy in various circumstances. In areas where law enforcement is still using X, K, Ka, or Ku bands, it affords you a way to avoid a speeding ticket and a hefty fine.
And used in conjunction with a mobile app such as Waze, you can considerably cut your chances of being flagged for overspeeding—that’s if police enforcement is still using radar technology. But if you’re looking to a no-fail solution, then your best bet remains to be being updated on and conscientious about following traffic laws.