What States Are Radar Detectors Illegal: A Basic Guide

The national average for a speeding ticket is between $115 and $135, not to mention the possibility of increased insurance rates.

Many people rely on radar detectors to avoid getting a speeding ticket, but a lot of people get confused about the legality of them. Some even think that the penalty for getting caught with a radar detector might be more than the cost of a speeding ticket.

If you’ve ever wondered where radar detectors are illegal, you’re not alone. The truth is that, in most states, radar detectors are perfectly legal. In fact, there are only two places in the U.S. where radar detectors are illegal. Read on to learn more.

What is a radar detector?

Radar detectors are small electronic devices that pick up on common radar guns used by many police departments. When the detector picks up a signal, it alerts the driver to slow down.

Although radar detectors can help you avoid speeding tickets, they’re not effective 100 percent of the time. One of the biggest problems with them is false alarms when the radar detector gives a warning when there is no real threat in the vicinity. Many companies have begun to incorporate advanced technology to eliminate these false alarms as well as increase the driver’s awareness on the road by alerting them of a nearby speed camera or construction detours.

Legal Considerations

Most people consider radar detectors a valuable and useful tool for drivers, but many arguments are made against them. The most common reasons people are against radar detectors are because they feel they encourage distracted and reckless driving and they encourage speeding. Some opponents of radar detectors believe that drivers are more likely to follow posted speed limit signs when they do not have a radar detector.

The laws about radar detectors vary from state to state and country to country. Before you buy one, it’s a good idea to learn a little more about the legal aspects of having a radar detector, not only in the state where you live but in the nearby areas you travel to.

Radar Laws in the United States

Generally, radar gun and laser gun detectors are legal for private vehicles in the U.S. and the tool is seen as a way for drivers to be more mindful of their speeds. A laser jammer, which actively scrambles the laser signal, is also legal in many states, but they do have some restrictions.

Some states allow radar detectors but have restrictions. For example, in New York, radar detectors are legal, but not in vehicles weighing over 18,000 pounds. In Maryland, they’re banned in vehicles over 10,000 pounds.

Many of the states that allow a police radar detector in a motor vehicle have laws regarding where they can be legally mounted in the vehicle. Usually, these laws have to do with safety and visibility. Windshield obstruction is illegal in many states, and some have laws that specifically apply to radar detectors. In California and Minnesota, it must be mounted on the dashboard.

Other states, including Alaska, California, Maryland, Nevada, and Vermont have some restrictions about what will be placed on your windshield and where. Only in Missouri and North Carolina are there no laws on the books or mentions of windshield obstruction concerning radar detectors.

As for laser jammers, there is no federal law banning them, so they are legal in most states. That said, there are a handful of states that have outlawed them, like California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, DC.

Radar jammers are illegal in all states.

Where are radar detectors illegal in the United States?

Only two places in the U.S. ban radar detectors: Virginia and Washington DC. If you are caught with a radar detector in these places, not only will the police confiscate it, but you will also have to pay a hefty fine.

What about federal law?

Federal law prohibits radar detectors on military bases and in commercial vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Generally, federal law supersedes state law, so even in cases where a state has more lenient laws about radar detector use, it’s a good idea to follow the federal guidelines.

Radar Detector Laws in Canada

Like the U.S., each Canadian province has its own laws about owning and using a radar detector.

In Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, radar detectors are not only legal but can also be mounted on the windshield. But, in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territory, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Yukon Territory, radar detectors are illegal.

Radar Detector Laws in Europe

Like individual states, each European country has its own laws regarding radar detectors. Some places ban them altogether while others allow you to own one but not to use it.

For example, in Bulgaria, Iceland, Italy, Norway, and Romania, it’s legal to own and use a radar detector. But, in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Serbia, and Sweden, owning and using one are both illegal.

Where Are Radar Detectors Illegal?

In the United States, the only places where radar detectors are illegal are in Virginia and Washington DC. While they are legal in the other 49 states, some states have laws about where you can mount a radar detector inside your vehicle. You should consider federal laws, too, which make them illegal on military bases and in commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds.

As you can see, radar detector laws vary from place to place, especially if you’re traveling over state lines, between Canada and the United States, or throughout Europe. You probably know the radar detector laws in your state, but it’s a good idea to do some research when traveling.

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