Summer trips and speed traps seem to go hand-in-hand. It’s rare to drive anywhere by highway between Friday and Sunday evenings without seeing a few sets of flashing lights on the side of the road. With more cars on the road, increased police monitoring can mean increased safety for drivers, but it can also mean some hefty tickets for speeders.
Many drivers—especially those who have been caught speeding before—toy with the idea of purchasing radar detectors, which are electronic devices that alert drivers ahead of time if their vehicle speed is being monitored by a nearby police radar gun and giving them time to reduce their speed. Police radar guns can be handheld by police officers on the side of the road, mounted to police vehicles as they drive, or fastened to traffic signals and road signs.
Radar detectors are illegal in some situations and banned in some states, though in the Carolinas they are permitted for passenger vehicles (they are prohibited for commercial vehicles).
If you’re considering a radar detector, here are some things you should know:
Doppler radar (the type of radar these detectors detect) is not the only tool law enforcement officials use to monitor speed. They also use aircraft, lasers, red-light cameras, and side-by-side pacing.
Mounting a detector too high on your windshield can be problematic for several reasons: it can obstruct your view, it can irritate police officers (even if detectors are legal, officers may not like them), and it may not pick up the Doppler signal as accurately.
Alarm systems and automatic door openers can interfere with the signal, and multiple false alerts can distract you from safe driving. Be sure to use “city” or “highway” mode to avoid false alarms.
The risk of a ticket is the lowest-level risk associated with speeding. Much more important is the fact that speeding can endanger yourself and other drivers.