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Do Radar Detectors Really Work?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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In the sense of performing as designed, most radar detectors do detect the presence of police radar in the immediate vicinity of a speeding vehicle. Whether or not that information will actually prevent a driver from receiving a speeding ticket remains to be seen, however. The problem does not lie with the detecting devices themselves, but the technology used by law enforcement officers to determine if a driver has committed a violation.

IN the US, early police radar units used one of two radio bandwidths assigned by the FCC, the X band and the K band. In order to be most effective, police radar units would have to transmit a constant signal in one of those two bandwidths. Radar detectors contained powerful antennas that could pick up the signal from an active police radar gun long before the vehicle came into range of the officer. The X band could almost always be detected from a distance, but the K band was much more difficult to detect. Only the best detectors on the market could warn against K band police radar.

The basic point behind these devices is for a speeding driver to receive a warning before driving into an area where police radar is in use. This information is only useful if the driver has enough time to slow his or her vehicle to a legal rate of speed. If the police officer is using a different radar technology than the detector, however, the driver may never get this warning in time, if at all.

Modern police radar units now use either a Ka bandwidth or a laser system, both of which allow officers to use an "instant on" technique. The traffic officer can literally point and shoot at a suspected speeder and get an official speed reading within a few seconds. Many radar detectors sold today can detect the presence of Ka band or laser police radar guns, but the driver usually doesn't get that information in time to make any significant reductions in speed. The end result could very well be a speeding ticket.

This is not to suggest that these devices are completely useless against modern "instant on" radar guns. If traffic on a highway is heavy, for instance, police officers may target the first few cars of a pack. If a driver at the rear of the pack has a modern detector, he or she may have a few seconds' warning to reduce speed. The situation may be completely different on a sparsely populated highway with a dedicated traffic enforcement officer, however.

Radar detectors have not become completely obsolete, but their effectiveness against modern radar units can be questionable. Some police departments still use the older X and K band radar units for speed detection, which means a good detecting device should provide enough warning to the driver. When dealing with modern Ka and laser "instant on" radar units, however, a speedy driver may just want to modify his behavior whenever traffic conditions suggest caution and good judgment.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to EasyTechJunkie, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon926076 — On Jan 16, 2014

I have the 9500ci by Escort and it's a stealthy remote detector that not even Virginia police can detect. It's elusive to their Spectre guns. 9500ci mixed with the Escort Live app on a smartphone and great Laser Jammer system can help drivers with ample amount of time to slow down and to know where the Ka and Laser alerts are. When I drive to North Carolina from New Jersey and back, I laugh at the Virginia police when they use their laser guns and/or Ka Band radars. On I95, I can go 80 or 90 just having a rabbit in front of me. Once I hear or see an alert on my 9500ci or Escort Live app, common sense I slow down. Virginia cops just sit there never knowing I just went 90 a few yards back. 9500ci with a good laser jamming system and Escort Live beats Virginia police or any other state with strict police (Ahem...Texas) ANYDAY!!

By anon334583 — On May 13, 2013

No, they don't work.

By anon326808 — On Mar 24, 2013

I am afraid you are wasting your money buying a radar detector. I live in VA and bought two of the "best" radar detectors (Escorts top model and Beltronics top model). They will work well detecting local town or sheriff cruisers, but not state, which is where you actually need/want them to work. State Police are trained to elude radar detectors. They receive expert training on how detectors work, how people use them, and most importantly how to work against them.

Neither of the top two radar detectors I bought was able to successfully detect a state trooper on I-81 or I-95. In the city you may have some luck, but again it's useless when you can't speed because of traffic. Save your $500, trust me. You will surely be disappointed. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying.

A good way to prove they are lying is to make a large bet (ex. "bet you $100 that if you do 100 down the highway you detector won't work and you will get a ticket"). They won't take the bet because they know their expensive toy doesn't work well. They don't want to admit it because they are embarrassed that they made a bad purchase.

By anon23902 — On Jan 04, 2009

Do radar jammers work?

By anon23864 — On Jan 04, 2009

Can the Radar do its function, if located in side glass room (the glass is around Radar). the room is at the top of look out tower

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

As a frequent contributor to EasyTechJunkie, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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