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Radar Detectors - What they are and which one is best for you

    If you make a mousetrap to catch a hi-tech mouse… then the hi-tech mouse will make an anti-mousetrap device to avoid being caught! And if you're an entrepreneur making a hi-tech mousetrap, then you'll make your own anti-mousetrap market both for the cat and the mouse putting them in a never-ending opposition to continue a self-propelling supply and demand syndrome. Hence, you have the Police Radar Detector (PRD) market!

    Kind of like the anti-spyware and anti-virus software battle growing stronger every day. Makes you wonder if they may possibly be making some of their own business? Lets hope not, but possible.

    But it is what it is… so let me help you in understanding just what's happening as you go down the road. Even though the agencies say they're not looking for extra revenue by setting up radar monitored sites, we know there's big money in the long run being brought into Counties, Cities or States. But we also know that there really is a safety factor in keeping congested areas where children pass through to go to school a safe place to be. So being responsible and a law-abiding citizen comes first. But once in awhile as we come home after a long day, or someone in the family is sick and our minds are somewhere else, an extra helping hand to keep us in check and traffic tickets out of our life is not a bad thing and not unacceptable as being ethical.

    Now with all the technology for the past years concerning PRD's not much has really changed. There is whoever competition between manufacturers that has giving us a better and better PRD in recent years. The constraints in just what the PRD can do is limited by the FCC, Federal regulations concerning highways and the local State you reside in. Some States may not allow their usage in part or in whole. So, please check your local laws and regulations first before purchasing. Otherwise with today's technology the officer's display on their Radar Gun (RG) could say a derogatory suggestion as you go flying by! But that would only start a smokey and the bandit conflict. So lets discuss just what can these hi-tech road monitors really do for us.

    Obviously the more money you spend the more options and cutting edge technology you'll get. So if you can afford more then three hundred dollars plus, then go right for the under dash out of sight units that can send out a signal for a short time slowing down their RG's from getting a fix on you. Thus giving you time to adjust your speed accordingly. But if you're trying to stay in a budget then read on. So what types of RG's that officers use are out there? Well, they vary from older to newer because of agency budgets, but you'll find both LASER and older radar units mixed in throughout a City or State. The Radars may be on different bands or multiple bands such as X and K with combinations of bands in between. These types have been around for along time. In past years some RG's were so powerful they have been linked to tumors found in the officers that used them. But most are low power today and LASER types do not cause these medical problems. For the users of the PRD this does not concern you since you are only receiving a signal and not transmitting one.

    Now there is a phenomenon called super-heterodyning in the receiver of your PRD. This small signal is part of the receiver's operation and can send very small traceable amounts that some higher-grade RG's used by officers can detect. Meaning, the officer using the RG can tell that you, the motorist, have a PRD and may wait to turn his RG on with a trigger to catch you before you detect him there and get you before you had a chance to slow down. Or if you're in a State that does not allow the PRD's then you're busted! But all is not lost… there are models who's manufacturers have designed this small signal out of the PRD and avoid this problem all together. Remember the introduction about a better mousetrap, and so the saga continues between the citizen and the agencies.

    So what's the LASER gun all about? Well, this type of RG is not radio operated but uses a LASER light beam and is as easily carried by a motor officer (Motorcycle officer) by stowing it away in a side carrier. And then pulling it out when stationary and aiming it right at you with LASER point accuracy. Thus allowing the officer to distinguish you since the LASER gun can give them extreme selectivity from you verses another vehicle and thus catching and singling you out from the crowd so to speak. So the radio RG compared to the LASER gun may not be so selective and may cause confusion in congested highways by not allowing a good fix on you. So yes, in a way it's a game and does require some skill on the part of the officer to get a good clean no-contest violation. The accuracy of their RG's have been in question for some time and even challenged in court from time to time. But once they are set and calibrated they pretty much hold true and most Judges will take the agency side in defending their equipment. Most devices today have some kind of microprocessors that are self-checking and regulating and so there really is not much to go out of calibration unless the unit is dropped and damage occurs to the transceiver horn in some way. But units today know if they are passing their own self-test and will indicate when service is needed. So the best thing to do is just learn how to use your PRD as well as the officer uses his RG. And may the better operator win!

    If you're in an area where revenue is highly dependent on getting you coming and going, then remember the officer's patrol unit may have a RG pointing forward and one pointing backward. And capable of alarming them that encroaching vehicles are going over the speed limit from behind. So take time and drive around when you first get a new PRD and learn just what it's saying to you. Some places in your path will be non-PG's that send out false signals, or possibly a MPH display sign telling you of your speed. And even some automatic doors like at the local grocery store are on the same radar band and will give you a false signal. This is one reason for getting a unit that has highway and city setting. It's a jungle out there for radio waves. So you need to learn what is the real McCoy and what is false.

    One agency actually placed radio transmitters around their City to keep motorists guessing and forcing them to monitor their speed all the time. But the FCC put a stop to that since it violated jamming and non-operator regulations. I guess in some ways I see the City's point but that's not the answer. Break the Law to enforce the Law.

    So when selecting a unit, you may want to get as many bands as possible on your new PRG so that it will detect all or most and have good selectivity to help in determining false from real radar signals. Some claim all bands or fifteen or more bands in total. That's my personal choice! Some only detect less than that, and that may or may not be covering your area completely, and could leave you open to being caught with your pants down so to speak. And you may take a long road trip into other States that use different bands. So the more bands the better. And when selecting a LASER unit make sure it's capable of 360-degree detection of LASER signals. Some units include highway alert monitors with warning alarms called SAFTEY ALERT (SA). Some will include digital displays reading out the incoming hazards of the SA. Some even talk! Whether transmitted by State highway warning signs or triggered by passing emergency vehicles coming into an intersection, try to get these options if it fits in your budget. Some trains can be fitted with FCC approved transmitters to warn you of them approaching a R/R crossing and triggering your SA on your PRG. But take my advice and never let the PRD do the thinking for you. Always be alert and use your own safe judgment when entering or passing potentially dangerous situations. And never use the PRD to make up lost time on the highway by thinking you will avoid being stopped and proceeding unsafely to your designation.

    A new feature available on some newer models is called GPS tagging. This feature allows you to press a button when you are in a known radar enforced area to map that location to memory in your PRD with a built in GPS for future pre-warnings. So if you know that an officer from time to time waits in a certain area, but you never know when, then when you're not paying attention in the days to come your PRD is, and reminds you to be alert. Now that is a better mouse trap! But remember its not a usable GPS for navigation.

    So if you need a GPS to complement your PRD then Wilderness Geek carries a full line of GARMIN Navigational GPS's as well as PRD's. So when traveling long distance these two auto accessories really come in handy for getting you from point A to point B safely, on time and without unnecessary costly incidences.

    Now lets talk about installing your PRD. Just remember that when mounting your PRD, it needs to set up above any obstructions like car seats or bobbing dog heads so as to get a clear clean view of any signals coming your way. Remember PRD's are in the radar bands which means line of sight only, and including LASER signals which are optical light being flashed your way. But keeping in mind your driver view should not be impaired by the PRD.

    Most manufacturers will include detailed operating instruction and useful operating tips. I recommend completely reading this information before installation and operation. They have some pointers not discussed in this article. It seems every manufacturer has something to offer over the other, so do your homework before buying, and it will pay off in the end. But all offer top of the line PRD's that seem to cover all the bases.

    And also remember that anything in your window is in plain sight and may attract thieves when you're parked and you're out of your car or truck. This includes GPS's. So stow away your PRD including the bracket which would tip off would be thieves that you have a goody hidden underneath the seat. And remember heat can damage electronic devices so keep that in mind when not in use.  All the manufacturers of Police Radar Detectors by Cobra, Whistler, Rocky Mountain and others are updating to meet the coming needs.

By Scott Hensler 0/12/2013

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