Do you enjoy driving? Do you hate getting unfair speeding tickets? If so, a radar detector is a device that can maximize your enjoyment of your car while increasing your awareness when you drive!
The purpose of a radar detector is to detect the invisible radar waves in the air that are used to get a speed measurement of your vehicle. When a radar detector encounters the invisible radar waves, it will give you an audio and visual alert so you can decide what to do with that information (for example, you can slow down!). Used properly, a radar detector can be a very powerful tool for not only preventing speeding tickets, but for being aware of other radar-emitting hazards on the road ahead such as construction zones, law-enforcement officers, and EMTs rendering aid to other motorists.
While the concept of radar detection might sound high-tech, in reality radar detectors work based on a very simple concept. One helpful analogy is to picture a friend jumping into a pool at the opposite end of where you are swimming – when your friend contacts the water, he or she causes waves that continue to expand as they travel away from the point of contact. Even if you were blindfolded and had earplugs in, as long as you were in the pool you would sense those waves from your friend as they crashed against your body. Those waves would tell you that someone jumped into the pool.
Radar detectors work in the same way. When a police officer shoots a radar gun, the gun causes invisible waves to be emitted (just like your friend jumping in the pool caused waves of water). When you are driving a few miles down the road with a radar detector, the antenna inside your detector will sense those waves hitting the antenna (just like the waves of water hitting you at the other end of the pool). This is how the radar detector knows that there is a radar-emitting source (like a police officer) up ahead. The better the design of the antenna and hardware in the radar detector, the further in advance the driver is warned of the threat up ahead.
While there are many different models of radar detectors on the market, they can generally be divided into two categories – dash or window mount radar detectors, and custom-installed or remote radar detectors. Window mount detectors are just what they sound like – small electronic devices that fit in the palm of your hand that are attached to a windshield with suction cups. There are several benefits to this form factor, including the ability to easily and quickly transfer the detector from one car to another. This comes in handy when traveling as well – you can easily take a window mounted detector with you on an airplane, or use it in a rental car. Almost all manufacturers offer several accessories specifically designed for window mount detectors, including a direct wire kit (hides the power cord), visor mount clip, and extra suction cup mounts.
Custom installed or hidden radar detectors function similarly to dash mount radar detectors, but are a very different formfactor. While a dash mount detector has the antenna, control circuitry, display, and speakers all built into a single physical unit, a custom-installed detector typically has them separated into several different modules. This allows the modules to be hidden and integrated into the vehicle OEM-style. Usually, the antenna modules will be hidden behind the front and rear bumpers, while the display can be flush-mounted into an area of the car interior for easy access.
While these units require more time and effort to install than a dash-mount detector, they do offer several unique benefits. The most obvious advantage is that custom-installed radar detectors are much more stealthy; there is nothing visible to the naked eye that advertises there is a radar detector installed in the vehicle. This is nice not just to hide the unit from police officers, but also for users who are concerned about theft – a $500 radar detector hanging on your windshield can be an easy target.
Custom installed radar detectors also offer the advantage of laser shifter integration for defense against modern LIDAR guns that police officers use. Finally, the custom-installed detectors offer a much cleaner look and feel to the user. You don’t have to deal with a radar detector hanging in your field of vision, there are no visible cords, the display is small and can be integrated cleanly into the interior of the car, and it just feels more “high-end.”
Regardless of which form factor is right for you, if you are someone who likes to drive and dislikes getting unfair speeding tickets, a radar detector is a wise investment. In addition to saving money and increasing your enjoyment while driving, a radar detector will help you become a more aware driver overall.