A bullet-proof vest does not mean you're bullet-proof. It just means most bullets won't penetrate the vest.
But some will.
Same with radar detectors. You'll be less vulnerable - but you won't be able invulnerable.
Probably the greatest threat - the one radar detectors are least able to protect you from - is so-called "instant- on" radar. The problem isn't that your detector won't detect that you've been targeted. The problem is not detecting the radar in time to do much about it.
Here's how it works:
Revenue collector parks on the shoulder or some other such place where - ideally, from his point of view - he can see oncoming cars before they can see him. He waits, finger on the proverbial trigger. His radar gun's trigger. When he sees you coming, he pulls the trigger and a brief burst of radar emanates from his gun. Just as your radar detector detects the signal, it's already bounced back to him, giving up your speed. You hit the brakes, but it's too late.
He's got you.
Most radar detectors need about 0.8-1.5 seconds (the better units being more sensitive) of radar signal before they'll alert. The problem is the latest instant-on police radar can hit you with a burst so brief in duration - as little as .016 seconds - that your detector either won't detect the signal or won't detect it quickly enough to give you time to react.
Instant-on is most effective on lightly traveled roads, where there's not much traffic. Because until it's activated, you will get no warning - no matter how sensitive your radar detector is. And if you're the only car on the road, the cop activating it has already drawn a bead on you. While radar is by nature diffuse - unlike a laser-based speed detection system - and so cannot tell which car is "speeding," if you're the only car around, it's a difference without a distinction.
Busted.
Instant-on is less effective when there's traffic in the sense that there are more potential victims. Thus, the chances of it being you are lessened.
There's also another reason.
Your detector will detect the instant-on being directed at the car ahead of you. Which will give you time enough to cut your speed. This is why it's wise policy to always find - and follow - a blocker car. Some other guy who is driving at about the speed you'd like to maintain. Let him take the bullet (so to speak) for you.
Laser is another big problem - even more so than instant-on radar because you will get absolutely no warning (the beam is virtually instantaneous) and also because - unlike radar - it is very specific. The light beam doesn't diffuse as it reaches out to your car. If the revenuer is pointing his rig at your car, there will be no doubt (in court) that it was your car he ID'd as "speeding."
High-end radar detectors can detect laser, but see points above. Times two. You will get no warning at all. Not even the little bit of warning you'd get if the cop was using instant-on (some of which would "leak" beyond the targeted car because - again - radar cannot focus on a specific car).
Thankfully, laser speed enforcement is fairly rare. So also instant-on. Most revenuers prefer to sit in their cars with their radar constantly on - and so, constantly radiating signal. A detector will pick up the signal while you're still on the periphery of pork - leaving you time to adjust your speed before he gets a "lock" on you.
Hence the value of the detector.
Look at it this way: A quality radar detector costs about $400 or thereabouts. If it saves you from getting even one speeding ticket, the thing will have paid for itself. Anything after that is putting money in your pocket by keeping it from being taken out of your pocket by they who exist to harass and collect.
Keep in mind that it's not just the money you'll be forced to fork over to the state/county (to help fund the revenuers, so they can collect more revenue). It's also the hit you'll likely take from the other half of this odious tag team.
You know - the insurance mafia.
Even one ticket for "speeding" can result in a not-small rate hike - whether you've ever filed a claim (or had one filed against you) or not. A perfect record - in terms of not having ever damaged your car or anyone else's - is largely irrelevant. Insurance is not about "safety." It is about legalized extortion. Traffic tickets provide the pretext for the theft (which, never forget, you're not legally permitted to say "no" to - hence, theft) and the mafiosi of the insurance industry will seize any opportunity to jack up your rates.
Also keep in mind that while having one ticket (conviction) on your DMV record may not trigger the surcharge tsunami, a second one absolutely will. And in most states, a conviction remains "live" on your record for three years; sometimes five. That means if you get another ticket while the first one's still active... you're toast. And will be paying an extra 5 or 10 or perhaps even 20 percent more annually for "coverage" you cannot refuse.
This is why it's critical to avoid that first ticket - and while a radar detector won't grant you absolute immunity, it will absolutely increase the odds in your favor.
Personally, I think anyone who drives - and "speeds" (which is pretty much all of us) without a radar detector is like a person who goes for a walk through a really bad neighborhood in the middle of the night wearing nice clothes - and without a gun (or bodyguards with guns).
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