Radar Detectors

Radar DetectorSometimes the simplest questions can make you think. I was asked if radar detectors were legal in British Columbia by a work experience student I had taken out on patrol.

The answer is, yes, they are, at least here in British Columbia.

radar detectors like this one are commonly installed in vehicles

OK to Speed as Long as You Don't Get Caught

The student paused to think this through. Speeding is illegal was the next observation. Yes, that's true also.

So, it's not OK to speed, but it is OK to have a radar detector. Isn't that like telling drivers it's OK to speed as long as you don't get caught?

Legal Tool to Evade Enforcement

What do you say now? ICBC and other traffic safety concerns spend millions of dollars in advertising telling us that speed kills and that we need to slow down and follow the speed limits. 

On the other hand, anyone can install a device in their vehicle with the sole purpose of evading the consequences of willfully disobeying the speed limit.

Radar Detectors Illegal in Some Provinces

Some Canadian provinces outlaw possession of a radar detector in vehicles. In France, you are not only charged for having one but your vehicle is seized as well. Few other countries allow radar detectors, why do we?

Are Radar Detectors Effective?

I've wondered about this one too. Honestly, most days I was lazy and simply left the radar running while I patrolled. I could have turned it on only when I found a vehicle that I wanted to measure in an attempt to defeat radar detectors.

I never had any shortage of speeding tickets to write, including vehicles with radar detectors installed and operating.

Laser Speed Detection

Police commonly use laser speed measuring devices today. As this story from the roadside attests, detectors may not be useful in this situation as well.

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The answer is an easy one - human rights.

I recall reading comments from a judge in the US. The reasoning went something like this: "If the state places citizens under electronic surveillance without a warrant, it can hardly object when those citizens want to know when they are being monitored." I believe that the evidence in the case revealed that the police officer was using radar to check the speed of all cars passing by, not just the ones where he had reasonable and probable grounds to suspect speeding.

Citizens of socialist countries like France (and Canada) are often too happy to give up freedom for a little bit of perceived security. It really comes down to where you stand on the matter of personal freedom and limiting the power of the state.

And it's not that radar detectors are used for the "sole purpose of evading the consequences of willfully disobeying the speed limit." There are US municipalities that are very candid about hiring police officers, giving them radar units, and telling them to go and generate revenue to balance the city budget. A tiny mistake, like coasting down a hill slightly above an artificially low speed limit, can result in an expensive ticket if a police officer's motivation is money. A radar detector can provide a reminder to a law-abiding motorist to check his speed. It seems that some Canadian municipalities are getting in the on the act too.

FWIW, I suspect that radar detectors, even the best ones, are not terribly strong protection for people who enjoy high speed driving. Radar technology is more sophisticated than it used to be, and there are probably too many curves and hills in BC for a detector to provide much warning in most cases. Lidar (laser) detectors seem to be pretty much hopeless; they only give a warning after the police officer has clocked your speed!

Having come from a communist country I can say one thing, laws are everywhere, freedom is not!

I don’t feel free if I'm constantly monitored; you may think your allowing enforcement to enact such acts upon you, because it protects your wellbeing. That will only get you so far, until you wake up one day and the very same washroom you used to call "private" and some would place "private do not enter" become nothing more than another "surveillance" area to make sure you don’t do drugs and flush them down the toilet.

What I'm trying to say is, it’s exactly the same, it’s not apples & oranges, by letting enforcement strip you of your freedom, you are destroying the very essence of what built this country and made it free, gave you the freedom to post your ideas on the web, share pictures online and give you a certain level of dignity, be free and aware, ask questions and get answers. Take all that away, and you’re drifting closer and closer to a dictatorship & a tax collecting government who will one day give you a criminal stare for asking "why".

So there, that is why radar/laser detectors are legal to own and install in your vehicle.

Also, the laws implied about "laser jamming" devices are pure speculation, to say that you are "obstructing justice" by jamming a laser gun that is aimed at you, I'm sorry but on that note, what makes it more legal & less of a crime to say that to paint your vehicle FLAT Black, put on a front bumper bra, and have black headlights to delay or give an error on a laser gun coupled with a laser detector, any less of a crime? I don’t want to drive a FLAT black car, but they have the advantage.

I hope you get the idea, you can then start writing everything off under "obstruction of justice", and that my friends is how you will one day surrender your right to an opinion.

I support all these devices; they give warning and let users adjust accordingly. Speed traps on the highway are nothing more than cash grabs. (if you think just because you don’t get tickets your obedient, think again, get a nice shiny new Corvette and drive the same way you do now and watch the tickets roll in, its profiling, but it’s also human nature aim for sporty nice cars) Go back to the old ways; you see people street racing or going way too fast? The officer sees it, uses his judgment to realize this person is speeding to an extent where he/she has total disregard for the safety of others, and pull them over. Yet what we have now is your own tax dollars paying 3 cops to stand around and collect revenue on the side of the street with laser guns, for people who slightly increased their speed. I'm sorry, but our speed limits at 80kms? Umm... maybe raise that.

15 years ago when everyone drove around Toyota tercels 1980's with drum brakes, 12" wheels, and it felt like you were going to fall apart if you took the car past 100, then yes 80k/h was appropriate. I honestly thought it was dangerous.

Now we have park assist, navigation, double wishbone suspension, selective all-wheel drive, active handling, body control modules which monitor your braking, suspension movement every 0.0001 of a second and make drive by wire throttle and body adjustments in even some of the lowest model vehicles, these cars now days go 180k/h and you feel 10x safer than a tercel going 80, yet our speed limits haven't changed, even roads improved. I'm sorry but how is that appropriate?

You may think, well reaction hasn’t changed, and this is where you must then ask yourself, maybe think beyond human reaction times, such as, did it matter that you reacted within 1 second when someone slammed on their brakes or went into your lane if you drove a Tercel? No, because the braking / stopping power from 60 to 0 on those was like 2500 feet and lock up its brakes causing you to lose all steering? where as a new Buick Enclave will stop on a dime within 100 feet and give you ABS so you can steer.


One rationale for radar detectors has been that it gives drivers advanced notice of potential traffic slow downs because traffic going past a radar trap always slows down to look.

i think they're reaching for this one because good eye lead time costs a lot less. Mind you, i've never owned a radar detector. I've always felt that if you aren't looking far enough down the road to see the radar trap (or evidence of it) before it picks up your vehicle, then you're over driving your eye lead time.

my last ticket was in Red Bluff California in 1983. August, 1900 hrs, 80 mph in a 65 zone and i didn't notice the 5 L Mustang parked up the on ramp. After riding all day i was probably too tired to be going that fast