> Radar Detector Users Guide
Radar Detector Users Guide
“If you don’t know how to use your radar detector properly, it may do you more harm them good” – Radar Roy 2003
Updated: October 3, 2010
After driving a few days with your newly purchased radar detector, you will become more secure in its abilities as it successfully alerts you of your neighborhood “speed traps”, however I urge caution.
As your confidence increases in your detectors abilities, don’t fall into the trap of becoming a “stupid driver” and start making mistakes.
The most important thing you can do to avoid a costly traffic ticket is to keep alert of what is happening around you and to respond accordingly!
Your radar detector can’t protect you against everything and it is not a Cop Car Detector!
Your radar detector is designed to respond to radar and laser signals it receives and that is all. There is many other methods law enforcement use to accurately estimate your speed and issue you that citation. However, if you are paying attention and know what to look for, you can reduce your chances of being caught.
Aircraft Enforcement: In some parts of the country police routinely use aircraft to obtain speed readings. Often a good giveaway is the large painted white lines on the pavement. These painted lines are used by observers in the aircraft to measure the time it takes you to cross over them. They then radio a waiting patrol unit ahead with your speed and vehicle description.
VASCAR: A computer that calculates your average speed from one point to another. An officer can also use a stop watch. The painted lines in the highway are often a good indicator that this enforcement practice is used in the area, but the officers often use other devices to measure distance. An officer can measure a guard rail from point A to point B then program this distance into his VASCAR system. An officer can also pace you with VASCAR. As you pass two points he enters them into his system. Then the computer calculates your average speed.
Pacing: Perhaps the oldest and most popular method of obtaining a speed reading of a violator by police. Simply put, the officer follows you in his car (or drives ahead of you) and matches your speed to his. After a short distance he obtains a speed of your vehicle and pulls you over. Be alert, is that car behind you smoky?
Laser Enforcement: A growing trend today are police departments moving to laser (lidar) enforcement and it is estimated that there are over 50,000 police laser guns in use today in the USA.
These guns transmit a beam of infrared light at a frequency of 330 terahertz. This light beam is only 18 inches wide at 500 feet and gets smaller as you approach the officer.
This narrow light beam is aimed by the officer to a reflective area on your vehicle, such as your headlamps or front license plate. The officer can only use the laser gun while he is stationary.
Unless your radar/laser detector is within this 18″ circle, or it picks up “scatter” from the beam, your radar detector will never alert. And by chance it does, it is too late as the officer has already obtained your speed.
To protect you from Laser Enforcement, we recommend laser jammers. For more information, click here.
Automated Photo Camera Devices that include;
Speed Sensors: Speed sensors planted in the pavement and then cameras that photograph you if you speed. They then mail you the citation. Some areas have signs posted in the area of these devices warning drivers to slow down. Read the signs, avoid the ticket!
Red Light Cameras: Although they are not designed specifically for speed enforcement, red light cameras are now gaining in popularity across the nation as a way to decrease traffic accidents (and increase tax revenue)
Photo Radar Cameras: Photo radar cameras can be either fix location cameras or mobile. These use very low power off axis radar to obtain your speed thus they are very difficult to detect even using the best radar detector.
Keep Your Detector
The biggest killer of all electronic devices, including radar detector is HEAT!
During the summer months in Arizona, it is not uncommon for the temperature in the passenger area of a parked car to exceed 150 degrees. High temperatures like this can shorten the life of any electronic device, including radar detectors.
Here are several tips to keep your car and your radar detector cool!
1: Park in the Shade
Seems to simple, but by just finding a shade tree or a building to park next to can keep your car much cooler.
2: Window Tinting/Sunshade
State laws vary, but if you live and drive in states where window tinting is legal, consider getting it done.
Otherwise, consider a sun shade that you can pull out when you park.
The best protection however in keeping your radar detector cool and extending the life of the unit, is to remove it from the dash when you park and to store it in the glove box or under the seat.
Mount Your Radar Detector Properly
The #1 Question I receive from clients is how to properly mount their radar detector in their vehicle.
There are basically two types of electronic transmitting devices police can use to capture the speed of your vehicle, radar guns and laser guns.
Radar is the most common. Radar is basically a microwave radio signal. At 1000 feet, a radar beam shot from a police radar gun is approximately 85 feet wide. This radar beam can normally penetrate glass, plastic, cardboard and even your body. What radar has a problem penetrating are metals, including some window tints that have metalized layers.
Laser is a light beam and is only 18″ wide at 500 feet. Because the beam is so narrow, and because it’s light, the beam can be affected by virtually anything you put between the laser gun and the detector.
Don’t mount it high!
During the testing of the products reviewed on RadarDetector.org, the radar detector is always mounted in the manner the manufacture recommends in their manual, in the center of the windshield.
A laser beam shot at 500 feet is only 18″ wide when it hits your vehicle. Police target either the front license plate or the headlamps. If the radar detector is mounted in the center of the windshield, it will be too high to receive any of the “splatter” that may indicate you are being targeted by a police laser gun.
There are also several other problems with this method:
1. In most cases, mounting the radar detector in this position will place it in the center of the windshield. This can cause a visual obstruction while you are driving. In Minnesota, it is illegal to mount anything to your windshield that may obstruct your vision (169.71: No person shall drive or operate any motor vehicle with objects suspended between the driver and windshield)
2. Mounting a radar detector too high will cause you to take your eyes off the road when it is activated.
3. If left in your car while parked, you will be exposing it to thieves.
4. This position is also a dead giveaway for law enforcement that you have a countermeasure device. While Radar Roy was a traffic officer, it was common to pull behind a motorist who was speeding and see their radar detector mounted directly in the center of the windshield. Even though the use of a radar detector is legal in all states, with the exception of Virginia and Washington D.C., some officers don’t appreciate their use. You will have a better chance of getting a break, if you make it less noticeable.
5. You will have other motorists following behind making you their trailblazer. If you then encounter an emergency situation and slam on your brakes, the vehicles following may slam into you.
Mount it Low!
Consider using Velcro to mount your detector on the dash or using the supplied windshield mounting brackets and mounting it low on the windshield. By mounting it this way, making sure that the windshield wipers are not blocking the front, you will draw the least amount of attention and obtain the best laser and radar detection.
Ensure that the controls are accessible
Make sure that you can easily reach the volume and mode controls (highway, city and mute) on your detector. For models that have “Smart Cords”, such as the Beltronics RX65 and the Escort 8500, get in the habit of muting your system with the button on the cord, rather than the detector, if it is easier to reach. For those models without auto-mute, you MUST have easy access to the controls if you want to keep the detector from screaming at you for an extended period of time.
Understand the Signals and Alerts
The radar detector issues a weak signal and you brush it off. This is perhaps the BIGGEST operator error made, ignoring the warning! You may think that it is a false alert or the signal wasn’t strong enough to be concerned about. A short time later your radar detector goes off again and you are caught!
To avoid an ambush, I recommend that you understand some of the signals and alerts that your detector will provide.
When most detectors alert, they will display the band and the signal strength.
||This is the oldest radar band, used by police in N. J. several locations in Ohio, South Dakota (Mount Rushmore) and in Mississipi. Chances are, unless you are in one of those states, you can ignore this alert. False alerts on this band are high to extreme (depending upon detector model and driving location)
||Thirty percent of the radar guns manufactured today uses this band. False alerts on this band are moderate
||Seventy percent of the radar guns manufactured today uses this band. False alerts are low to moderate
||Growing in popularity with police departments nationwide, false alerts are low. When false alerts are encountered, normally they are reflection of bright sunlight, or wind shear monitors at airports or weather stations
Signal Strength Alerts
Most detectors will alert you of the strength of the radar signal with a graph or row of lights. The closer the officer, the higher the signal strength.
The ambush frequently happens after you receive a weak signal and ignore it as a false alert. This alert can be an indication of the following:
- All police radar guns are directional, meaning they send the signal in the direction the gun is pointed. As you approach an officer’s location the police radar gun maybe pointing in the opposite direction, thus a weak signal on your radar detector. As you approach, it is re-targeted toward your location.
- The law enforcement officer is further down the road, using his instant-on radar gun or POP radar.
- When an officer uses instant-on or the new POP mode radar guns, he has the able to clock your speed in a second or less. As soon as he obtains your speed his radar detector goes into standby to avoid alerting other approaching drivers with radar detectors.
- Another law enforcement trick is to do radar enforcement in locations known for false alerts. Regular travelers of this route start ignoring the usual alert that they receive when in this area. To avoid this trap, consider a detector that has the ability to detect multiple threats
A good formula to use to determining if the range of your radar detector is adequate to avoid an ambush is “Capture Area x 7″. This formula is allows you to detect the police in enough time to safely slow down and to observe the events taking place around you, to then determine the reason for the alert.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Reginald Stanton’s ruling which stated that an officer should not target vehicles further then 1000′ could be used as a baseline. However very few officers know anything about this ruling and his findings hold no merit outside of the state of New Jersey, therefore police officers often start obtaining a vehicle tracking history the moment that they observe your vehicle.
Under normal circumstances, the longest range an officer can lock on and make any type of target vehicle identification on a flat roadway using radar, is approximately 1/4 of a mile. Therefore using my “Capture area x 7” formula, you would want to have a detector that has at least, 1.5 miles of detection.
However, there are also some variables in where police speed enforcement is used, such as hills and curves. Therefore, if you live or drive in an area that has allot of curvy, mountainous roads, you would want to increase your capture area to at least a four mile distance.
During the Speed Measurement Laboratories 2010 Long Range Testing, The Escort and Beltronics radar detectors were detecting K and Ka band signals at a distance of over 10.8 miles away.
Therefore, when your radar detector goes off, make sure that you are traveling at the legal speed limit and are obeying all other traffic rules, until you are SURE the threat has ended.
Use the Correct Mode
”You’ll go crazy listening to false alerts if you don’t Use the correct mode.” – Radar Roy 2001
All of the GPS based Radar Detectors offered by both Escort and Beltronics such as the Escort 9500ix, the Bel GX65, the Escort 9500ci and the new Passport IQ automatically sense the speed that you are driving and adjust the sensitivity accordingly if switched into auto mode. Therefore if you have any of these detectors you can skip this entire section by just selecting auto mode on your detector.
Use City Mode for city
When driving in the city, switch your radar detector over to city mode. This will reduce the sensitivity of the radar detector (usually on X band only) or leave the sensitivity unchanged and raise the threshold of the unit, when the audio alerts sound.
By doing this, you will significantly reduce the number of false alerts your radar detector will receive.
Hopefully you will have a more relaxed driving experience without having to listen to your radar detector’s false alerts to other devices such as automatic door openers, alarm systems and even other radar detectors.
Use Highway Mode for highways
When you activate highway mode on your radar detector:
- You increase the sensitivity of your radar detector to receive at its maximum range
- Your detector’s audio alerts are restored for low signal strength encounters
- Your detector is at maximum performance and more likely to warn you of threats ahead on the roadway, including instant-on radar.
For the VERY BEST range on the highway, always use Highway Mode!
POP is POOP!
In the 2004 MPH introduced POP radar into several of their police radar guns and marketed this new feature to police agencies.
POP radar explained in the most basic terms is that police using one of MPH’s POP enabled radar guns would send a quick burst (POP) of radar signal at a vehicle to obtain the vehicle’s speed.
In 2004 MPH showcased their new POP enabled radar gun at the Speed Measurement Laboratories Radar Detector test in El Paso, Texas and none of the radar detectors tested alerted to this new POP radar gun.
The major radar detector manufactures then went to work developing new radar detectors that were effective against this technology and new marketing campaigns were launched by the speed counter measurement industry. The effect was radar detector users began upgrading by the droves to get these new radar detectors and it was a major boom to the radar detector industry, sales increased significantly. But there were a few problems that were not addressed by either side:
- The use of POP mode is NOT admissible in court. When an officer uses radar he must obtain a visual vehicle tracking history of the violator comparing his visual observation to the speed displayed by the radar detector.
- Switching back and forth between modes is very cumbersome for operators.
- Most states in the US do not have contracts with MPH for their POP radar guns
Most of the high end radar detectors sold today come equipped with the ability to receive POP mode, however it must be activated and if you do, false alerts will rise significantly. So should you consider activating it? I say NO, POP is POOP!
However if you would like to activate POP Mode in your Escort or Beltronics radar detector, go into advanced programming by pressing the mode button and mute buttons on the detector at the same time while the unit is powered up. Then press the mute button to navigate through this area.
Each millisecond an officer is off obtaining a tracking history report means miles per hour taken off your speed if you react in time.
Even if the effort seems fruitless, apply your brakes immediately upon being warned by your radar detector.
Remember, police radars are machines and don’t ALWAYS work correctly. For common errors radar and laser guns and their operators make consider downloading my free Radar Detector Buyers Guide E-Book available on this website.
If you apply your brakes immediately, you could beat an officer to the punch, even if he is using instant-on radar.
Warning: Always be alert of road conditions when applying your brakes, especially when driving in inclement weather, on roads with potholes and/or when other vehicles are close behind.
New Radar/Laser Technology – Emerging Devices from the Law Enforcement Community
As a retired member of the law enforcement community, I have the opportunity to attend the various trade shows targeting the law enforcement community and get to see all the latest gadgets that are becoming available to the law enforcement community.
The biggest trend in Law Enforcement continues to be the automated photo enforcement cameras.
This also remains the biggest trend in the Speed Counter Measurement industry with the release Passport’s new IQ integrated radar detector full function dash mounted GPS system at the 2010 Las Vegas SEMA show.
Spectre Proof Radar Detectors
Escort and Beltronics have both developed radar detectors that can detect all radar detector detector devices (RDD). They are: