What is a Radar Detector or a Police Radar Detector? Is it Legal to Use?
Radar detectors are tiny devices that help the motorists identify the presence of RADARs, (Radio Detection and Ranging), which are used by police or law enforcement. There are radar detectors that are capable of identifying the presence of laser-speed guns. These guns prove useful for those who wish to avoid speed traps that sometimes conventional radar detectors may fail to identify.
Before we plunge into police radar detectors, let’s take a look at how a conventional police radar work in general.
How does a police radar operate?
Police radar is different from police laser in the sense that the former can determine the speed of the vehicle directly. It does so by measuring the speed induced (Doppler) radar. A radar device typically emits radio waves, which traverse at the speed of light and refracts to the radar device when it strikes an object on its trajectory.
The difference between the time the wave takes to hit the target and bounce back to the device gives an estimate of the distance between the object and the device. While detecting speed, the frequency of the radio wave returning to the device changes because the vehicle is moving, if the movement of the vehicle is towards the device, then the radio wave’s frequency increases because the distance decreases.
A police radar detector is capable of detecting radar device by the radio waves it emits. It acts as a radio receiver, detecting specific radio frequencies utilized by police radar devices. Since the police cast a broad net on a target, these detectors in moving cars identify radio waves much before the vehicle enters the range of the police.
Is it legal to use a police radar detector?
The legal status of police radar detectors has been questioned across the globe. Some of you may think it’s a simple yes-or-no question, but it’s pretty complicated in reality. Laws related to police radar detectors vary from state-to-state and country-to-country. Let’s take a look at the scenarios in some countries here.
Radar detector laws in Europe different from country-to-country. Belgium, Austria, Spain, Greece, and Croatia are some countries that prohibit the possession of police radar detectors. However, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Norway, and the Czech Republic are countries that allow the possession and use of police radar detectors.
British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan allow the possession and use of police radar detectors. It is illegal to have a radar detector in all other provinces of the country.
The use of police radar detectors is allowed in general because these devices are designed to warn a vehicle driver to slow down. The ultimate goal of speeding ticket is to make drivers slower on the road.
In the United States, laws related to the possession and use of police radar detectors differ from state-to-state. Virginia and Washington DC are the only two states where there is a ban on police radar detectors. In California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, use of police radar detectors is not explicitly regulated, but hanging items from the vehicle's windshield is strictly prohibited. In other states, possession and use of police radar detectors are allowed in private vehicles.
The laws may, however, differ when it comes to commercial vehicles like trucks and buses. Commercial vehicles that weigh 10,000 pounds and above are prohibited from using police radar detectors. The drivers of these vehicles are considered professionals, so they fall under different regulations. Otherwise, for private vehicles, laws relating to possession and use of police radar detectors are fairly lax across the country.