Radar detectors are very helpful for anyone out there with a heavy foot. They are electronic devices that alert the driver to the presence of speed detection within a certain distance.
Radar is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging. A good example of this technology is the radar you often see used in ships to detect other sizable vessels on the water.
Several vital components enable radar systems to detect distant objects, including:
Radars operate in two modes: transmit and receive.
Radar signals are emitted in a series of short bursts called “pulses”, which travel outward away from the antenna until they encounter objects in their path. The return pulses travel back to the radar and are processed by the receiver and signal processor. The radar can detect the object’s relative position, direction, and speed by sending related signals and listening for their return. It does so by listening for the return signals and establishing how long the return signal takes to bounce off the object.
When a police officer has a radar gun to detect the speed of cars on the road, it uses a phenomenon called the Doppler effect. When it occurs, the radio wave frequency changes depending on the car’s motion relative to the radar. If a vehicle is moving toward the radar, the frequency increases. The shift in frequency indicates how fast the vehicle is moving.
Radar detectors pick up the specific frequencies used by radar guns. Radar detectors can often pick up the radar gun’s radio wave transmission before the car comes close enough to the radar gun to have its speed detected. This is thanks to radar signal emissions speed out in the air as they move away from their source. When a radar picks up the radar signal, it sounds an alarm and lights up to notify the driver that a radar gun is ahead. More advanced radar detectors can not only detect police radars but can also throw off the police radar by transmitting a scrambled signal called a jamming signal.
Radar detectors are not 100% accurate as they can pick up false alerts. Additionally, police officers use laser speed guns, known as LIDAR, to detect vehicle speeds. Standard radar detectors cannot detect LIDAR guns, but LIDAR detectors can. However, their effectiveness is not as high. Like radar detectors can have radar jammers, LIDAR detectors can be equipped with laser jammers.
You might understand why police officers might not like them, but what does the law say? Well, like anything, it’s different from state to state.
Generally, radar detectors are generally legal in the United States. This is because detectors are intended for drivers to be mindful of their driving speeds. However, radar detector laws vary from state to state. Opponents say they can encourage speeding among drivers and allow dangerous and reckless driving. They also argue that drivers will follow set speed limits and drive more carefully without radar detectors.
Virginia and Mississippi are the only U.S. states where radar detectors are illegal to use. The District of Columbia does not allow radar detectors either. Additionally, radar detectors are prohibited in all commercial vehicles, and all vehicles are 18,000 pounds or heavier.
Some states don’t allow radar detectors because they can distract the driver, especially if there is a false alert, and radar detectors can obstruct the driver’s view. Because of this, the following states have banned mounting radars on windshields: California, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
While most states allow radar detectors, the use of radar jammers is not allowed in any state due to federal law. However, laser jammers are allowed in some states. Laser jammers are not permitted in the following states: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
Be sure to check with your local legislature because some of these states also have laws that differ for commercial vehicles over 10,000 lbs.
Laser Jammers Legality
|Alabama||Legal||Legal||Using radar detectors is legal in private vehicles.|
|California||Legal||Illegal||May not be mounted to the windshield, as it may obstruct the view. Offenders may be ticketed. Dashboard mounting is acceptable.|
|Illinois||Legal||Illegal||Not allowed in any commercial vehicle, including those under 10,000 lbs.|
|Minnesota||Legal||Illegal||May not be mounted to the windshield, as it may obstruct the view. Offenders may be ticketed. Dashboard mounting is acceptable. Not allowed in any commercial vehicle, including those under 10,000 lbs.|
|District of Columbia||Illegal||Illegal|