A radar detector is merely a tool, its effectiveness governed by the driver's skill in using it. While it's true that these gadgets
are plug 'n play, a driver armed with basic knowledge of the technology stands a significantly better chance of steering clear
of speedtraps. Here's the minimum you'll need to know.
Why does my detector alert for no reason sometimes?
A. It's receiving a signal, but not police radar. A conventional radar detector frequently barks warnings in town
although there's no police officer around. What's up with this?
The detector alerted to a signal generated by non-police radar. Most often these are the radar-controlled automatic door
openers commonly used by commercial establishments.
These transmit on police-radar frequencies—X or K band—which, to the radar detector, are indistinguishable from the real thing.
On the open road, most false alarms—especially those on Ka band—are caused by radar detectors in passing cars. (If your high-end
Escort or BEL is set up
correctly, Spec Display will indicate whether the signal
is a police radar or merely noise. We provide a detailed guide to our customers that explains how to
use this invaluable feature.)
There is but one effective antidote to false alarms—a GPS-enabled radar detector. But in our tests, we found only those from Escort and BEL (both owned by the same firm)
capable of reliably eliminating false alarms. (Having exclusive access to this patented technology effectively shuts out the competition.)
A. Yes, but moving radar is far more versatile and lethal than a stationary radar trap, making it tougher to counter. Most of
these radars are dual-antenna models, one in
front, the other in back, giving them 180-degree coverage. This feature also allows the radar to track same-direction
vehicles in front of or behind the moving cruiser. See the video >>>
By far the most common encounter with moving radar is to meet an oncoming cruiser, pass it, and watch as the officer U-turns and whistles up behind you,
light bar ablaze. No time to react; the show's already long over.
Watch the video on the right and see why the latest moving radar's exceptional versatility makes it tough to beat. You'll learn why, in the freeze frame shown
at right, the radar can clock four of the five vehicles ahead of the cruiser:
White oncoming car (fastest opposite-lane target)
Dark mid-sized pickup (strongest opposite-lane target)
Ford Bronco ahead of the cruiser (Same Lane Mode/front antenna)
Distant car in Lane 2, ahead of the Bronco (Same Lane/Fastest Speed Mode)
Can I be clocked even if there are cars between me and the radar?
A. The short answer: yes. This is thanks to a feature called Fastest Speed. By using this the officer instructs the radar to display the speed of the
fastest vehicle within range. But the radar's incapable of denoting which vehicle is producing that Fastest speed; it merely displays a number. It's up to the
officer to identify the Fastest target.
For an experienced officer this is not difficult, at least when only a few vehicles present, but it still demands extra caution. Many can't be bothered, with predictable
For example, a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer, on a nearly empty I-80, stopped an innocent driver and handed him a ticket for going 96 mph in a 75 mph zone.
Unfortunately, he got it
wrong. After studying the in-car video of the episode, it was obvious that the 96 mph speed from his Stalker DSR radar was not from the car 1,000 feet behind him. His radar had been tracking the spinning rear trailer wheels of an 18-wheeler in the next lane.
On the highway, what causes my detector to alert briefly, at a low signal strength, when there's no cop around?
A. If it's an X- or K-band alert it may be an automatic door opener. A weak K- or Ka-band signal could be generated by a radar detector in a passing car.
Another possibility is instant-on radar working traffic up ahead. If so, you're likely to get several of these alerts before encountering the cruiser.
The best radar detector (among windshield-mount models), the Escort Redline,
will alert to this type of radar trap from miles away, usually at two to three times the range of most radar detectors.
But like all supersensitive models, the Redline will continue to alert to static false alarm sources whenever they're within range. This is why the GPS-enabled detector is so popular.
Integral GPS lets it identify and lock out nuisance signals, resulting in supernaturally quiet operation. The most widely sold and unquestionably the best GPS models
are the Escort Passport 9500ix, Escort Passport 9500ci
and Escort Passport 8500ci.
(GPS models are pricier than conventional detectors but can occasionally be found at a discount, at least if you know where to look.) Watch the video to learn more about the GPS advantage >>>
How come my detector doesn't alert to red light cameras?
A. Nearly all domestic red light and speed cameras are triggered by pavement sensors, not radar. With no radio signal present, there's nothing to detect.
There is a defense, however, the GPS-enabled radar detector. The best one, the Escort Passport 9500ix, even tells you if the camera monitors only red
light violations or if it clocks speeds as well, making it a 24/7 speed cop. It counts down the distance in hundred-foot increments, concluding the alert when it reaches the camera.
Keep in mind that this concept is only as accurate as the data in the manufacturer's camera location database. In our 18-month test of these databases, accuracy rates ranged from
dismal to superb.
Gatso red light camera in Phoenix
American Traffic Systems red light camera (Houston, TX) violation photo
Sometimes I drive by cop cars and my detector doesn't go off. How come?
A. Other than state highway patrol cars, most police vehicles are not radar-equipped.
Traffic enforcement in larger cities is handled by the traffic division, whose officers focus on accident investigation and speed enforcement. They'll often
be on motorcycles, and using lasers. Others drive vehicles, some of which are equipped with radar.
Remember, a radar detector's job is to detect radar; it doesn't detect police vehicles.