Don’t think you need a radar detector?

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It’s been almost exactly two years since I bought my V1 radar detector. It’s also been almost exactly two years since I last got a speeding ticket.


More like a reprieve.

No longer do I have to live with the constant dread that just after the next blind curve sits a doughnut-eater running his Machine – because now I have a machine, too.

My ever-vigilant Little Friend chirps a warning – Slow Down! – and it’s that second or two of advance warning that has kept my record “clean” for 24 months now – a feat I had not managed in the previous 12.

Some may take umbrage and call me a law-breaker, which is technically true. But then, so are the cops and the system they support.

Speed limits, for instance, are very often not set according to the law. Instead of doing a traffic survey (including measuring the speed of traffic on a given stretch and determining the average, from which the posted limit is supposed to derive its statutory basis) the limit is just posted – at whim.

Typically, it’s set well below the 85th percentile speed (basically, the normal pace of everyday traffic) which has the effect of making virtually every driver on the road technically guilty of “speeding.”

A proper speed limit, according to the book (literally – the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD; see speed limits should be set about 5-10 mph higher than the 85th percentile, so that only drivers going significantly faster than the normal flow are in violation. Most state and local governments are supposed to abide by MUTCD and the 85th percentile rule – but they don’t.

So, who’s playing dirty pool here?

Another example: I live near the Blue Ridge Parkway, which snakes through rural Virginia and North Carolina. Last year, they repaved much of the section that runs through our area. They also just painted over several former divided-yellow line passing zones with a continuous ribbon of double yellow. Pre-pave (and paint) it was perfectly legal to pass a heaving RV struggling up the mountain at 24 mph (the posted limit is 45). Now, in exactly the same place, it’s illegal – at least, technically – because the lines have been repainted. But was a traffic survey done? Was the law actually changed? I doubt it very much. I think – I would bet – that the construction people just painted double yellow on their own say-so.

But you’ll still get a ticket if a cop happens to be coming along when you’re trying to pass that heaving RV.

Unless, that is, you have your Little Friend with you.

Mine has saved me no less than three times from getting a ticket in this scenario.

There’s also the issue of speedometer error. Many people have no idea but it’s fact that vehicle speedometers in ordinary passenger cars are often not accurate. They can be off as much as 5 mph, either way. This is why cop cars have “calibrated” speedometers that are tested to ensure accuracy.

For them.

But your car’s speedo may be off – and that means you could be “speeding” and not even know it.

You’ll get a ticket just the same.

A radar detector can also be a day-saver when, for example, you’re about to try to pass a dawdler doing just slightly under the posted maximum. To execute the pass safely, you will need to accelerate to well over the posted maximum briefly, in order to safely get around the dawdler and back into your lane quickly. This is obviously smarter – and safer – than trying to pass a car doing 52 without you yourself driving faster than 55. Cops know it’s so, too. But they will ticket you mercilessly if they catch you doing 65 to get around the dawdler – even if it’s only for a moment.

Unless… .

The final argument I’ll make – and it’s addressed to the “good driver” who rarely drives more than a few mph over the posted max – is in the form of a warning. It used to be that most cops in most places would “spot” you 5, even 10 mph – because they knew (but would never admit openly) that most speed limits were bogus and they felt bad about hassling people whom they knew were not driving dangerously. But enforcement is becoming much more aggressive as a result of declining tax revenues and increased costs for state and local governments. Traffic tickets are a vast potential source of revenue and all around the country, local governments are leaning on the police department to increase the haul as much as they possibly can. The cushion that used to exist is gone. You can expect to get a ticket – and not a warning – for doing 62 in a 55 or 50 in a 45.

Unless you have an electronic ally.

Now, a high-quality radar detector like my Valentine 1 (see is not inexpensive. But in my case, the unit paid for itself within the first six months. Do the math yourself. A single typical “minor” speeding ticket averages about $150, fine plus court costs. That’s less than the cost of the V1, of course. But don’t neglect to take into account the near-certainty that your insurance premium will be “adjusted” upward even after just one speeding ticket is credited to your DMV rap sheet. Get a second ticket within a 2-3 year timeframe and the near-certainty becomes an absolute guarantee. So if the detector saves you from getting even just two minor tickets over a two-year timeframe, you are in the black.

Everything after that is gravy.

And it’s impossible to calculate the value of escaping the clutches of Johnny Law. Avoiding just one ticket, courtesy of your Little Friend, will absolutely make your day.


  1. I live in Northern Virginia and used Valentine One models in two cars for many years without a problem after relocating from a place where they were legal. They are great detectors overall. However, the state troopers and county sheriff’s offices are investing in Spectre radar detector detectors these days and the V1 units leak significantly. My units were both concealed and I was fished out of reasonably heavy traffic twice and given tickets even though I was driving at or below the speed limit. I didn’t even see the cars approaching from behind (one was unmarked) until it was too late. When it happened the first time, I just thought it was bad luck. After the second, I think that the Spectre devices must be in relatively wide use – at least in the northern counties.

    • Yeah – I would not be surprised that Northern Virginia “invests” in such technology. Lord knows it’s a good use of taxpayer money… gotta get those dangerous speeeeeders!

      Down here in SW Virginia, the counties are poorer so the cops don’t have the ability to “invest” in similar technology.

      It’s one of the 5,450 or so reasons why we moved outta Northern Virginia!

  2. As you may know, Virginia is the only state that bans the use and sale of radar detectors. There is no evidence that the radar detector ban increases highway safety. Our nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rate has also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Research has even shown that radar detector owners have a lower accident rate than motorists who do not own a detector.

    Maintaining the ban is not in the best interest of Virginians or visitors to the state. I know and know of people that will not drive in Virginia due to this ban. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps. Likewise, the ban has a negative impact on Virginia’s business community. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states and Virginia misses out on valuable sales tax revenue.

    Radar detector bans do not work. Research and experience show that radar detector bans do not result in lower accident rates, improved speed-limit compliance or reduce auto insurance expenditures.
    • The Virginia radar detector ban is difficult and expensive to enforce. The Virginia ban diverts precious law enforcement resources from more important duties and this ban may be ILLEGAL.
    • Radar detectors are legal in the rest of the nation, in all 49 other states. In fact, the first state to test a radar detector ban, Connecticut, repealed the law – it ruled the law was ineffective and unfair. It is time for our Virginia to join the rest of the nation.
    • It has never been shown that radar detectors cause accidents or even encourage motorists to drive faster than they would otherwise. The Yankelovich – Clancy – Shulman Radar Detector Study conducted in 1987, showed that radar detector users drove an average of 34% further between accidents (233,933 miles versus 174,554 miles) than non radar detector users. The study also showed that they have much higher seat belt use compliance. If drivers with radar detectors have fewer accidents, it follows that they have reduced insurance costs – it is counterproductive to ban radar detectors.
    • In a similar study performed in Great Britain by MORI in 2001 the summary reports that “Users (of radar detectors) appear to travel 50% further between accidents than non-users. In this survey the users interviewed traveling on average 217,353 miles between accidents compared to 143,401 miles between accidents of those non-users randomly drawn from the general public.” The MORI study also reported “Three quarters agree, perhaps unsurprisingly, that since purchasing a radar detector they have become more conscious about keeping to the speed limit…” and “Three in five detector users claim to have become a safer driver since purchasing a detector.”
    • Modern radar detectors play a significant role in preventing accidents and laying the technology foundation for the Safety Warning System® (SWS). Radar detectors with SWS alert motorists to oncoming emergency vehicles, potential road hazards, and unusual traffic conditions. There are more than 10 million radar detectors with SWS in use nationwide. The federal government has earmarked $2.1 million for further study of the SWS over a three-year period of time. The U.S. Department of Transportation is administering grants to state and local governments to purchase the SWS system and study its effectiveness (for example, in the form of SWS transmitters for school buses and emergency vehicles). The drivers of Virginia deserve the right to the important safety benefits that SWS delivers.

    Please sign this petition and help to repeal this ban and give drivers in Virginia the freedom to know if they are under surveillance and to use their property legally:

    • When I wrote that article a few weeks back about the value of buying (and using) a radar detector (…ad.php?t=15792) I had a few replies pointing out that in Virginia, where detectors are illegal, I ran the risk of being nailed by a “radar detector detector,” specifically, the Spectre III/Elite used (apparently) by many police. (See here:

      I looked into it a bit – and also have my own real world experience using the V1 for about three years now (in Virginia) and thought I’d post what I know – or what seems likely – based on that.

      First, I am pretty confident that the Virginia State Police and most local police do not have the Spectre III or similar radar detection equipment. Either that, or the V1 is not detectable by them.

      I have gotten away with using the V1 every single day for almost three years, on highways and secondary roads all over the state. Almost every day (and literally, every other day) the V1 has alerted me to a cop running radar, either coming at me from the opposite direction (moving car) or from a stationary unit parked off to the side of the road. Each time, I have slowed down – and sailed right past the cop without incident.

      The cops don’t even look at me.

      I don’t turn the V1 off, either. I usually just snatch it off the dash, where I mount it using quick-release Velcro, before I get close enough to the cop for him to easily see the V1 sitting on my dashboard. However it is still on – so if the cops have a Spectre or other type of detector detector that is capable of picking out the V1, I would assume that by now at least one of them would have come after me to check for a radar detector.

      But that has not happened.

      My conclusions:

      One –

      Given that most people are cattle and will obey the law – no matter how unfair, stupid or even evil the law happens to be – the cops in VA assume that most people do not have radar detectors and so are not actively looking for them. (The side benefit here for people who aren’t cattle and use radar detectors anyway, despite the laaaaaaw, is that we have the element of surprise on our side. Since cops assume most people don’t have detectors, they don’t use tactics that assume most drivers do have them. They just “paint” traffic with K or Ka, without much if any attempt to hide what they’re doing. This gives the handful of us with radar detectors a real advantage – in Virginia, anyhow.)

      Two –

      While they may be looking for them visually, they do not have effective radar detector detectors; perhaps because these units are too expensive (from what I gather, each one costs more than $2,500) and most departments just can’t afford to equip each cruiser with one. Or the V1 is immune to them. (I cannot speak to the effectiveness of other brand radar detectors.)

      Three –

      If you read the technical specs. published by the manufacturer of the Spectre radar detector detector, you’ll see the effective range is 1,000 feet out (from the cop to you). But the V1 is effective at much greater distances than that, so even if the cops have the Spectre, odds are you will detect them before they detect you. This jibes with my personal, real-world experience using the V1 in Virginia.

      Bottom line –

      It is pretty safe to run the V1 in Virginia, provided you are careful to keep your V1 low-profile by using the Velcro on the dash mounting system, as mentioned earlier, snatching the unit off the dash (and out of sight) when near cops or in urban areas/slow-moving traffic where it would be more visible and maintaining high situational awareness.

      To further stack the odds in your favor, do the following: When the unit goes off (especially Ka band, which is a guaranteed cop), slow to the speed limit, pull the V1 off the dash and disconnect the power plug. Once the unit is off, it cannot be detected – so you’re absolutely sure of flying under the radar.

      Enjoy the ride!

    • It’s a Virginia thing.

      At least the state’s pretty good on gun rights; “shall issue” for CC. All that’s missing is a Castle Law and immunity from civil lawsuits if a shooting incident is deemed non-criminal/self-defense by the commonwealth’s attorney.

    • Yes, Va. is the only state in which use of a radar detector is illegal – even though the Supreme Court ruled that such laws are unconstitutional, since a radar detector (like a radio) is merely a passive receiver and as such falls under the same protection as a radio receiver. But Va. just ignores the (federal) law and has gotten away with doing so.

      There is an upside.

      Since most Sheeple obey the law (no matter how stupid or unjust it may be), the cops assume most people do not have detectors. So, they aren’t as slick in their use of their own radar (especially the harder to evade instant-on type) and (mostly) aren’t looking for detectors. As long as you are alert and cagey, the odds of being caught with one are pretty low. The thing is, you must mount the unit discreetly (on the dash, no hanging from the windshield with the wire visually obvious) and be ready to snatch it off the dash and stash it when a cop is coming up/nearby.

      I use velcro to secure my V1. So far, no problems – and I have dodged probably a dozen tickets in just this year alone!

      • Virginia Highway Tax & Toll Collectors (State Police) use Spectre RDD’s ($2500 per unit) to look for RD’s. When they stop a car they look for Velcro on the dash and then ask for the RD. I set my RD on a piece of foam on the dash.

        • I use Velcro; I figure I can either say nothing/refuse to answer their question (theoretically still my 5th Amendment right) or say it’s for a GPS. So far, though, so good. If I “see” them first, I just pull the detector off my dash and motor on. It is virtually impossible to notice a detector (or Velcro) unless you’re literally right on top of the cop.

          A question, though: How do they detect a detector? It’s a passive receiver (like a radio) right?

          • Yes, it is passive, but all electronics leak some signals from the Local Oscillator (LO).
            Signals from the LO in the RD Radiates and is detectable by an RDD (Radar Detector-Detector). Only 3 RD’s are undetectable:
            1) Escort Redline
            2) Beltronics STi
            3) Beltronics STi-R

          • Thanks for the info!

            On the other hand, isn’t the V1 the most effective? In the tests I’ve red, it outperforms the others and that (if correct) is certainly a big consideration.

            On a purely practical level, I don;t think the cops in my area have RDDs. If they did, I probably would have been nabbed by now!

      • Obviously we know that those laws are evil… but does SCOTUS really have any rightful jurisdiction there? As much as I obviously don’t like a law like that, if we’re going to support nullification as a state right (At least under the constitution) we have to be consistent about it, at least IMO. Then again, I may be missing something. But I think resorting to SCOTUS to override a state law is like releasing a dragon to destroy a couple of bandits.


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