How Radar Detectors Work and Why They Won’t Always Save You From a Ticket

You might think you can dodge every speeding ticket with your dashboard radar detector, but you’d be surprised. Here’s how radar detectors actually work and why you’re probably better off just going the speed limit.

In this video from the Techquickie YouTube channel, Linus explains the basics of police radar guns and how radar detectors actually work. Most police use Doppler radar to check your speed. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same radio wave technology used in weather forecasts, aviation, and even healthcare. Basically, police officers fire radio waves at your vehicle that bounce back and tell them how fast you’re going. A radar detector, like the kind you might have on your dashboard, is simply scanning for those same radio frequencies within the same Doppler bands. Ideally, your detector goes off and warns you so you can slow down before they get a good reading on you.

As Linus explains in the video, however, that’s where things get a little hairy. A lot of other devices, like adaptive radar cruise control on newer cars and automatic doors at supermarkets, use similar radio frequencies; making false alarms a frequent occurrence. On top of that, traffic officers know how common radar detectors are and have moved on to newer technology. Lidar, which uses a focused beam of infrared light, is now being used my many police departments because it’s harder to detect. There are Lidar detectors out there, but because Lidar guns focus on such a small spot on the vehicle (like the license plate), there’s a good chance the detector won’t catch it anyway.


Also, radar detectors are legal in most states (except Virginia), but radar jammers, or any devices that might interfere with police equipment and actually prevent a reading, are not. So, while it’s possible that a radar detector might help you dodge a ticket in some circumstances, it’s definitely not a guarantee by any means. If you really want to avoid a ticket, your best bet is to always just follow your local traffic laws.

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