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Before laser alerts, radar detectors only sensed police activity on the X, K, Ka, or Ku bands. Nowadays, most modern detectors come with a laser alert feature that detects when police use laser technology to catch speeders.
Hence, Here’s an overview of the five different bands in which police speed guns operate, then provide you the different meanings of laser alert.
What Are the Different Bands Used by Police Officers?
Before we dive into the world of laser-operated speed detection, it is important to understand the different bands used by police officers before this new technology was introduced.
1. X Band
Since many establishments use equipment, such as burglar alarms and supermarket doors, which also operate on this band and create frequent false alarms, many people now advocate turning the X band alerts off on their radar detectors. However, unless you drive around a territory that you know very well or had made sure that police officers in the area are not using the old X band radar anymore, it is not recommended to turn it off just yet. This is because some police departments know that many people turn it off for the same reason, and so they use X band radar guns on purpose to catch speed violators.
2. K Band
This band is in the 18 to 26.5 GHz range and was formerly a reliable warning of the radar until supermarket door sensors and other equipment operating on K bands began corrupting it. As such, radar detectors may send false K band alerts, but unlike the X band, it is not that common, so police continue to operate on this band together with the Ka-band.
With a frequency ranging from 26.5 to 40 GHz, this band is the latest type of band. So if your radar detector is obsolete, it may find it hard to detect Ka bands. That is why police officers are more inclined to use speed radar guns operating on the Ka-band, and this is also why you should send your radar detector for an update or upgrade to a more high-tech one.
4. Ku Band
This band ranges from 12 to 18 GHz, though it is usually set at 13.45 GHz for radar enforcement. This is more commonly used in Europe and is common in the USA.
5. Laser Band
Unlike the four bands mentioned above, which are transmitted through radio waves, laser speed guns, also referred to as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), use light to detect an object’s speed. Compared to radar, LIDAR emits a narrower beam, making it easier for police officers to target a speeding vehicle.
What Does Laser Alert Mean on a Radar Detector?
Now that we know the different bands transmitted by speed guns, we can now better understand how radar detectors pick up these bands, specifically LIDAR.
Unlike traffic radar, LIDAR can only be used in the “instant-on” mode, which means that a radar detector with laser alert cannot detect LIDAR until the officer pulls the trigger to clock it, usually when the target vehicle is already nearby. If such is the case, what does laser alert mean on a radar detector, and how can it alert you beforehand?
A laser alert is simply a feature in radar detectors that alerts a driver when it detects LIDAR. Once a LIDAR gun has been aimed at you, that’s the only time your radar detector can give you a laser alert, which may already be too late for you to take action as your speed has already been measured.
A detector with one laser sensor, though more costly, can detect laser beams in front of you but not behind you or off to the sides. Models with 360-degree laser detection have two sensors that can also detect laser pulses behind and on either side of your vehicle.
Making the Best out of Laser Alerts
The lightning-fast accuracy of a LIDAR speed gun makes it nearly impossible for a radar detector to do its job effectively. However, it is still better to have a laser alert feature than none since the use of the newer LIDAR technology is becoming prevalent already in many state police departments.
It may not save you on its own, but coupled with a jammer, community threat-sharing apps like Waze and Escort Live, proper strategy, and constant vigilance on the road, it can help you be better prepared and forewarned.
1. Laser Jammers
Some say that the only real defense against laser is a jammer, an electronic device that aims to confuse an officer’s speed gun by sending out a light on the same wavelength the gun emitted but at a higher intensity. The use of laser jammers is restricted in several states in the USA, so look up before switching it on. You also have to switch it off at once so that your jamming is not obvious.
2. Info-Sharing or Community Threat-Sharing Apps
One of the recent features that most top radar detectors have is sharing information with other radar detector users through a community threat-sharing app. To do this, your radar detector must connect to your smartphone so that you can download and use your detector’s partner app such as Cobra iRadar, Waze, or Escort Live; likewise, GPS must be installed.
Through these apps, you can tag GPS locations for the presence of active laser guns, speed traps, and speed cameras, and vice versa. That way, you can see when and where other users have tagged active lasers. Belonging to such a community can make you feel more informed and secured.
3. Causes of False Laser Alerts
Just like radar, there are also instances when a LIDAR not coming from a police laser gun is detected by your radar detector; thus, giving you false laser alerts. To distinguish whether a laser alert is a false or a genuine alarm, know which things also emit laser so that you can look out for them. Some of these things include:
- Bright lights: A low setting sun or when the sun is low on the horizon.
- Vehicles with laser-guided cruise control: These are vehicles with a laser-based system for blind-spot monitoring.
- LED taillights: Rain-sensing windshields where sensors are typically mounted in the rearview mirror.
- Navigation devices mounted too close to a high-voltage backlit LCD screen
- Some of the latest cell phones
- Some of the major and larger airports
What Does It Mean?
To sum it up, a laser alert on a radar detector may mean two things.
First, it could mean that your detector has picked up LIDAR from a police laser speed gun, and during which you should act quickly to mitigate the possible risk of getting caught for speeding. Proper timing of using a laser jammer, checking info-sharing apps from time to time, and remaining alert on the road are things that can help you maximize the effectiveness of a laser alert.
Second, it could also mean that your detector has picked up LIDAR from things other than that of a police speed gun. You will know if it’s a false laser alert if you notice no patrols around and aiming at you. In that case, you can assume that the laser alert could be just because of some nearby device also operating on LIDAR or just the sun.
Knowing what laser alert means on a radar detector and distinguishing between the two, genuine laser alert versus false laser alert, is essential so that you’ll know how to respond— either take proper, immediate action or shrug it off.
Have a peaceful driving journey and speed safely!