So you got yourself a nice new radar detector and you are ready to drive fast. Problem is, you don't know how to use the thing. Radar detectors are actually simple devices, they detect radar and laser signals aimed at your vehicle. The hard part is making sure your device is in the proper position to pick up these signals and to alert you, or not alert you, after processing the signal and assessing the threat. Here is what to do to optimize your use of a radar detector.
- Properly mount the radar detector. This is the first thing people usually screw up and it's not really their fault. The manufacturers like to tell you to mount your radar detector right smack dab in the middle of your windshield. This is a bad idea for a couple of reasons. First off, the cop who is pointing the radar at you isn't aiming it at your windshield, he's focused in on your license plate or headlights. If you mount your radar detector up as high as the middle of the windshield then you are not going to pick up some of the signal that the radar gun is throwing at you.
Secondly, why advertise the fact you have a radar detector? Sure they are legal in almost every state (sorry D.C. and Virginia) but most law enforcement personnel do not look too kindly on people with radar devices that essentially help them break the law. Also, your radar detector might entice thieves.
Another thing to consider is that the radar detector could be obstructing your view if it's in your line of sight, which is just dumb and potentially dangerous. So set it low as you can, either on the dashboard or the windshield, but be careful your wipers don't obstruct it. This positioning will help tremendously, especially if you are being targeted by laser which has a smaller beam and is tougher to pick up.
- Set the radar detector to the proper mode. There are a couple of different modes your radar detector will work in to help you detect threats and to minimize false alerts:
- City mode is a "must" when you're driving in a place full of alarms, door sensors and other detectors. This mode will reduce the sensitivity of the radar detector so only strong signals are picked up by it.
- Highway mode increases the sensitivity of your radar detector, therefore increasing it's range and ability to detect low signals and instant on, quick signals.
- Auto mode is commonly used and it will shift between city and highway modes automatically depending on your speed. If you want to get the best from your radar detector you should make sure it is in highway mode when you are on the highway.
- POP mode is used to catch the quick bursts of radar used in certain guns. While this mode is used by some law enforcement to stop speeders, the technology it uses does not hold up in court. It is actually only used to get an "estimate of speed" not a definitive speed. So here is your dilemma, do you suffer the increase in false alerts to combat a threat that in the end will not cause you any legal trouble? If you live in a place that has a high concentration of POP radars then maybe it's worth using.
- Familiarize yourself with your radar detector's signals and alerts. After driving around with your new gadget for a bit you could start to do the #1 thing that gets radar detector owners in trouble: ignoring the alerts coming from your unit. When your radar detector gets a signal it will alert you audibly with a beep or voice. The stronger the signal, the louder these alerts get. Sometimes, in areas where there are a lot of low signals and alerts, it gets easy to discount these little blips as false alerts. Some traffic cops love this because that's when they get you. Those low signals may be them getting a gauge of your speed then waiting to really nail you when you are closer and have no time to react.
- Use common sense along with your radar detector. Watch out for hills or big curves where police wait to ambush speeders. Bridge underpasses and overpasses and access roads are places to be wary of too. Never speed excessively because it is dangerous and even if you get a good hit on your radar detector, you'll need time to slow down. If you have a car in front of you and behind you then you can be a little loose with the alarm because the cops will likely be targeting them also. If you are in sparse traffic, you will have to sharpen up and pay better attention to the alerts or alarms the radar detector is giving.