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Radar Detector Shopping Guide
You’re cruising along a remote highway or country road away from traffic—and civilization. You're singing along to your favorite tunes, letting the music take you to new and exciting destinations as you gaze down the road ahead. Until…
Those familiar flashing lights loom in your rearview mirror. You glance down, and sure enough—you are driving over the speed limit. If your speeding violation falls close to the national average of $150, your joy ride has now become rather expensive.
In a heavily trafficked world where roadway signage is confusing and speed limits can change with little to no warning, it’s no wonder it is estimated that more than $6 billion of speeding tickets are doled out each year in the United States. They are just a part of life if you’re a driver.
But do they have to be?
A radar detector can help prevent you from receiving expensive speeding tickets. Consider a radar detector to give you a heads up before you get caught in a speed trap.
How Radar Detectors Work
Police radar guns utilize wave frequencies to detect how fast a vehicle is going—the faster the car is going, the longer the wavelength necessary for the radar gun to receive the echoing signal. Radar detectors are designed to detect the radio waves emitted from these police radar guns. These frequencies vary, but Ka-band (the frequency most popularly used by police) operates between 33-56GHz. While new technologies are being introduced more and more, most police officers use the same devices that have been used for decades. These simple radio signals are fairly easy for radar detectors to identify.
Avoiding False Alerts
If you have ever been the passenger inside a car equipped with a radar detector, you might have heard the driver complain about the incessant beeping of the device. These are what are called “false alerts,” and they are caused by other radio signals the radar might pick up on. Automatic supermarket doors, the parking sensor on the car next to you, adaptive cruise control—all these technologies utilize radio waves, and some of the lower-end radar detectors will beep if they pick up even the smallest signal.
If you don’t want to be alerted to the fact that there is a supermarket door nearby, then the most important consideration in choosing a radar detector might be its DSP (digital signal processor). This microchip ensures that you receive fewer false alerts. It accomplishes this by prioritizing radio frequencies used most often by law enforcement.
Some radar detectors are extremely precise; higher-end models can even indicate the location of the police officer and their radar speed gun. As you approach the speed trap, the radar detector will alert you. Once you have passed it, a separate alert will let you know that the coast is clear.
These days, more police officers are using the updated technology of laser guns to detect drivers over the speed limit. These laser guns are precise and target one vehicle at a time.
Standard radar detectors cannot combat these laser guns. The newer and more cutting-edge radar detectors feature what is called a laser jammer—as their name implies, these devices not only detect the radar gun's laser beam, but jam it as well.
It is important to note that radar detectors and laser jammers are illegal in some states.
Some police are even equipped with their own radar detectors to track down vehicles that are using them—in reverse. Before you purchase a radar detector like this, do your research to make sure you aren’t going to get smacked with a traffic violation of a different variety.
If you drive across state lines frequently, this might not be the best option for you unless you have every state’s laws memorized.
Radar detectors are generally attached in one of three ways:
Corded radar detectors – These models attach to the windshield via suction cups. They provide excellent detection range but can be a lure for potential thieves.
Cordless radar detectors – These models are easily detached and can be switched between vehicles more easily than their corded peers.
Remote-mount detectors – These models are permanently installed and, generally speaking, are more aesthetically appealing.
Radar Detectors with GPS and Bluetooth
Radar detectors that contain GPS chips offer greater accuracy and less likelihood of picking up false signals around you. They do this in part by intelligently learning and revising false alerts.
When your device passes a grocery store and sets off an alert, you can press a mute button to designate that particular signal as harmless. This is called a GPS lockout. Some devices even pick up on this acquired data without you having to manually program them to do so.
GPS features can also alert you when you are dangerously over the speed limit, as well as to other fineable offenses (such as red-light cameras).
Some radar detectors also include a Bluetooth feature, which allows you to connect your smartphone. Several apps work with radar detectors; these apps feature such functions as local speed limit data and even logs of your driving behaviors.
Radar Detector Features
With basic settings that allow you to toggle between modes depending on where you are driving, you are less likely to receive false alerts.
This feature reduces false alerts caused by radio signals commonly found in modern-day vehicles—features such as adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance systems.
Some devices are so confident that they will prevent you from receiving a traffic ticket that they even offer radar ticket guarantees.
Variable Bandwidth Detection
Police speeding radar guns commonly use several frequency bands: X-band, K-band, Ka-band, and more. Some radar detectors allow you to customize your settings to monitor some or all of these frequencies. This can be helpful if you know what is most commonly used where you will be traveling.
Radar Detector Safety Considerations
Safety Alerts – Some models will alert you to the presence of emergency vehicles so you can safely and quickly move out of the way.
Voice Alerts – Keeping your eyes on the road is difficult when you are checking the modalities of your radar detector. Some radar detectors use voice alerts to warn you about upcoming police radar guns, reducing unnecessary distractions.
Adjustable brightness levels – Some radar detectors offer varying brightness levels to adjust to light conditions.
Which Radar Detector is Right for You?
With a range of features and price points to match, there is a radar detector to suit just about any need. There’s nothing better than a good drive to clear the mind. With the right radar detector, you can enjoy the ride without being worried about a speeding ticket.
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Navigating the many choices for every consumer purchase can be challenging. Our team spends hours doing research, combing through forums, and reading consumer reviews on even the most basic of household items, and we summarize that information in clear, precise comparisons.
Join the millions that have trusted BuyersGuide.org to help them make smarter buying decisions. We help our readers spend their money wisely and find the right product to suit their specific needs. Our independent expert reviews and data-driven shopping recommendations empower you find the radar detector that's right for you.
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