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Radar Detectors are Useless Now

I’ve recently come to a conclusion about radar detectors — an item that many car enthusiasts have considered crucial to avoiding speeding tickets for the last few decades. And my conclusion is: these days, in these modern times, they’re useless. It’s over. There’s simply no point in having a radar detector anymore.

I originally started reaching this conclusion a few months ago, when I drove across the country and back in my radar detector-equipped Aston Martin V8 Vantage. On this 6,000-plus mile road trip, I discovered two very important things: One, radar detectors are being beaten at their own game. And two, radar detectors don’t really work on modern roads.

I’ll start with number two: Radar detectors and modern roads don’t really mesh all that well. Now, in the past when you got a radar detector, you could always count on it making its little chirping sounds and flashing its lights whenever you passed an automatic door (outside a shopping mall or a grocery store, for instance) because the technology they used was relatively similar to the technology radar detectors search for. And that makes sense.

But these days, it isn’t just shopping malls. Here in 2017, virtually every modern vehicle on the road is equipped with blind spot monitoring, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, and all of those systems seem to use some form of technology that makes a radar detector go crazy with flashing and chirping. Seriously: Take a radar detector down a road in a nice area, where people tend to have new cars. Every time you see a Mercedes, or a BMW — in fact, most Fords and Chevys, these days — your radar detector will freak out. The number of false positives has gone from "annoying but acceptable" to "please shut up so I can listen to my music." If eight out of every nine radar detector chirps and flashes are fake, you start to simply not trust it. And then, what’s the point?

And it’s not just the false positives. Modern radar detectors are expensive — and they’re being beaten at their own game by much cheaper solutions. The best example of this, of course, is Waze — a mobile app that lets users report police presence (and other potential road dangers) so you know when to slow down in order to avoid a ticket. I’ve noticed two things about Waze: One, that it’s tremendously accurate. And two, that it’s tremendously quick. Almost as quick as a radar detector, and certainly with fewer false positives.

The story I always tell about Waze comes from a true incident that happened to me once, a few months ago, as I was driving on the interstate in New Jersey late at night. My Waze app lit up and insisted there were "animals on the road ahead," which I openly laughed at. Animals move. How can an app on my phone possibly announce where animals are located?

Well, sure enough, less than a minute later, there they were: A herd of deer grazing and hanging out by the side of the road. I’ve trusted Waze a lot more since then.

And, of course, Waze doesn’t just tell us about deer. While it suffers from some false positives as a result of taking a while to remove reports of police vehicles that may be looking for speeding drivers, Waze is generally pretty accurate — and pretty quick — at recognizing speed traps. If you’re cruising down the highway and Waze tells you there’s a police car ahead, you’re likely to slow down — a lot more so than if you’re cruising down the highway and your radar detector goes off. When your radar detector goes off, the first thing you do is you start looking around for a car with adaptive cruise control.

All of this brings me back to my cross-country road trip. Early in the trip, I had the radar detector switched on, convinced I’d be able to thwart any potential speeding tickets I might receive. As the trip went on, I gradually switched — ditching the constant chirping and flashing of the radar detector for the soothing sounds of the person in the Waze app. By the end of the trip, I was all Waze — and I’ve never looked back. And, frankly, I don’t think I ever will. Goodbye, chirping radar detectors. The modern world doesn’t need you anymore. Find a car for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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42 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with the author. Where I drive in CA mostly in Angeles Crest or in Malibu. The cops mostly use laser now. Ka Band is a dinosaur. With laser and less likely Ka they wait until you’re in range and instant on and off with a trigger. You may pick up the Ka but very tough to pick up the laser as its range is very short. I guess if youre just doing 15-20mph over you could slam on brakes and the cop will give you a break. With laser if you are moving down the canyon roads, coming around a turn or a hill top you are busted with the quick pull of the trigger. These days is more about being savvy and knowing where they are likely to sit. Laser on cop bikes and cruisers is just too good. Radar detectors have seen their days gone by. 

  2. You are out of your mind if you think a radar detectors are not helpful. Its the constant on radar in cop cars  that is responsible for the fast majority of tickets still. Radar detectors are incredibly effective at avoiding these tickets minimal false positives. Who needs to speed through affluent residential neighborhoods or bumper to bumper traffic anyway? People speed on the highway and the freeway where radar detectors are still the most effective tool to avoid tickets by a massive margin! You  clearly can’t think outside the city where the rest of the country lives.  Your article is not only inaccurate but irresponsible. So if you are like me and you drive the highways and freeways across America use a high end radar detector and I promise it will save you on a regular basis, probably the first time you use it. The author of this article does know the first thing about ticket avoidance in the real world. 

  3. I have a Cobra detector and it gets me out of tickets regularly.  Not sure why you think they are useless.  Unless you are traveling as faster or faster than speed of light, you can still detector the signal.  

  4. I’ve been using an Escort MAX 360 for six months now.  Do not bury your radar detector yet.  My vehicle adaptive cruise and side vehicle detectors which the MAX deftly ignores as it does door openers and security systems.  It warns me well in advance of the kill box even when on/off radar is used.  Most of my driving is four lane, on the open road laser is really rare since there is no rolling laser available yet.  Saves to date, three.  Worth it?  Totally. 

  5. My New Valentine One has already saved me from 4 – I repeat FOUR speeding tickets in 2 months. When I was 21 – I was saved from a speeding ticket and DUI by a cheap $20 radar detector. I was “over the legal limit” (yet still safe to drive) going 65 in a 45 on a lone highway at 2:00am. It was the same as—-hole cop who stopped me twice for speeding on the same road before.

    This worthless, P.O.S toolbox would’ve ticketed me, ARRESTED ME and towed my car.

    Back then I was young and poor with a sh–ty car and that’s why they targeted me. Being white only helped so much. I could not afforded the ticket or to get my car out of towing. The arrest would have cost me my career. It would have derailed my life. I would have never been able to go to College because I would’ve  had no car to drive! I would have a permanent record, my mugshot online for everyone to see FOREVER. It would have derailed my life.

    Yes well then you should not have been drinking or speeding. Well…. Whatever. You’re only young once. It was an empty road. It was “safe” to speed. I was not wasted.

    I was saved by a $20 cheap Cobra I got at K-Mart. Ever since then … I have ALWAYS used a radar detector and always will.

    I am not a racial “minority” or poor disadvantaged person and I proudly say … F THE POLICE. Police are in and out for themselves. At YOUR EXPENSE. They don’t do their jobs. They don’t “save” “protect” or “serve” ANYONE but themselves! You don’t NEED police for ANYTHING. Police don’t “save” or “help” they RUIN PEOPLE LIVES and try to make them a permanent  “customer” of the system. You don’t need police when you have a 2nd amendment !

    Your car gets robbed and they show up 80 minutes later when it starts to rain to take fingerprints… because they were too bust handing out tickets and towing peoples cars ..

    When your life is in danger THEY REFUSE TO HELP if they believe there is any chance in hell of them braving danger.

    They are there for 3 P’s ..  paycheck, promotion, pension, to ruin peoples lives.

    I have never been arrested and have not received a speeding ticket since 1999.

    This article is hogwash. Paid for by police. You’re seeing more of these articles online with the WAZE APP with people reporting these road pirate thieves so everyone knows where they are.

    They want to ban WAZE and are spending tax payer money to fund these articles. They KNOW Radar detectors work. They always have.

    If the lazy pigs are so upset at WAZE and Radar Detectors .. they can use VASCAR, PACE. or Laser or even instant on KA radar …. but … that would require actual WORK … instead the LAZY TAX PAID PIGS and just park and wait for an “Honest Jane” or someone stupid or poor enough they didn’t invest in a detector… to ruin their lives and cost them thousands in insurance increases over 5 years.. the insurance companies LOVE POLICE that’s why they are the biggest donors.

    The police radar guns require massive power and range – something door openers or luxury car devices don’t have. When the little piggies Radar travels down the road it spreads out and my Valentine One picks it up over a mile away.

    Do NOT listen to these articles people.

    ZERO speeding tickets since 1999.

    Invest in a detector it will pay for itself 1000 x over.

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