Roger Williams


During the 1970s a state of war began between certain vehicle operator and law enforcement agencies, over the use of radar detectors - on both sides. These units were first commercially sold as semi-sophisticated devices able to track vehicle speeds on streets and highways. Glamorized in the movie "Smokey and the Bandit," drivers have employed the little "black boxes" to detect signals the police use to identify speeders - saving many a ticket and hindering policing efforts on the nation's roads.  

As the equipment on both sides has improved technologically the battle has begun to look more like "Star Wars." Jamming devices are tried (generally, to no avail). Now police departments have equipment that can spot radar detectors in cars, and the detectors have technology to "mask" themselves. If an officer can tell the speed a "mounted" detector in a vehicle is traveling, he knows how fast the vehicle itself is traveling.

(It is against the law for any truck with a load carrying capacity of over 10,000 pounds to have the equipment in the vehicle.)


X, K, Ka, AND Ka WIDEBAND: simply detail the different frequencies the radar equipment used by police operates on. The same frequencies are used worldwide, and work in a similar manner. Radar acts a lot like light, it cannot go over hills or through objects, but the detectors cannot identify police signals over hills or through objects either. So as the driver speeds over a hill, "Smokey" will measure the vehicle's speed as it  crests the hill. The driver is then pulled over and ticketed by the police, while his radar detector is beeping to alert him that this is about to happen.

Even with the most sophisticated detecting equipment available, the driver must be careful or the detector is useless. The higher the detector is positioned in the car, the sooner the warning is given.

LASER: operates a lot like radar, though with a much shorter range - usually not  more than 1000 feet. If the police are clocking the car in front of another vehicle, other  drivers have the best opportunity for a warning. If the police laser gun pops out right in front of the speeding vehicle there is virtually no warning time. The laser gun, however, needs to site on a vertical reflective surface like a license plate or headlight to get a reading. The more round surfaces the vehicle has the stealthier it becomes. Anything done to angle the plate or headlights, or cause them to absorb red light, makes it more difficult to get a reading. You may think of ways to accomplish this, but remember, there are regulations on license plate positioning.

PHOTO RADAR: Automatic devices set by the roadside are springing up everywhere. These not only measure speed, they take a picture of the vehicle's license plate, and you receive your violation notice by mail. This radar has a very short range, so the detector is given very little time to react. At 60mph the detector will give 1.5 seconds warning. 

JAMMERS: The radar jammers that really work are banned worldwide. The ones that  are sold inexpensively and are just reflectors, don't work and are a waste of money.

VG-2 RADAR GUN: This device indicates, to police, the presence of a radar detector in a vehicle. The weaker the operating emissions from a detector the more difficult it is for a radar gun to pick up the signal, therefore making it equally difficult for police to detect the detector.

In New York, Virginia, and Washington DC, where detectors are illegal for public use, this gives some advantage over the more powerful detectors. 

Any radar detector with an anti-VG-2 circuit will cut the possibility of police locating the detector by 75%.


The Virginia law reads: "(Virginia 46, 2-1079) Radar detectors are illegal."  New York and Washington DC have similar statutes. However, if the detector is  in the vehicle,  but not hooked up, and not accessible to the driver or passengers, the statutes  are not   in violation.  Note: in most British Commonwealth nations radar units are illegal  to own or to use. 


Although drivers should always stay within the posted speed limit, there are places where speed rules just don't seem to make sense to me - Montana backlands, large parts of Nevada, the Dakotas, etc. It's annoying to be caught by police lying in wait to catch you just as the posted speed limit drops by half in the middle of the wilderness for no apparent reason. Radar detectors can help even the chances of you not getting caught, warning you that "Smokey" is around. 

Radar detecting systems by well-known manufactures can be purchased relatively inexpensively.

You should include the following in your package:

1. X, K, Superwideband Ka and Laser with 360-degree sight capability. These are usually attached, by a suction cup, to windshields, for better signal receiving. Note that some windshields have gold or other metal processed
into the glass, which will keep the detector from functioning.

Hideaway units do not work efficiently for all the reasons stated.

2. A VG-2 system.

3. The ability to remove the detector quickly (for obvious reasons). 
4. SWS (safety warning system) a new innovation which will warn the user of road hazards ahead. This system is growing throughout the country and will be of increasing value as more use-sites spring up.

5. A loud tone or buzzer and warning lights, built into the detector.

There seems to be little difference in operation vs. cost when the above are present. A  $500 unit, it appears, with the same operating parameters, works as well as a $150 unit. Higher profit and name recognition brings the cost up.

If the unit purchased is from a major manufacturer, Uniden, Whistler, Bel Labs etc., and from a knowledgeable dealer who can advise you and install the device properly (very important), the $$$$ vs. value is balanced.

Please keep your speed down where possible. Ownership of a radar detector will not guarantee to keep you driving-ticket-proof.

Radioman and The Digital Journalist is not responsible for any citations received by drivers owning or not owning radar detectors.

Radioman can be reached at   All questions are certainly welcome.

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