What Are Radar Detector Bands?
Understanding how your radar detector sorts through multiple frequencies and identifies relevant alerts is the first step towards driving smarter and safer. Modern law enforcement technology is frequently updated to stay one step ahead of drivers to ticket those breaking speed limit laws, so a quality radar detector should be able to keep up with these updates and ensure that you are getting the right alerts at the right time.
The word "radar" is an acronym for "Radio Detection and Ranging." In simple terms, radar uses radio waves reflected off a moving object to determine its speed. With police radar, that moving object is your car, and the radio waves are microwaves. If there is relative motion between the radar gun and the car, the frequency of the reflected signal will be different from the frequency of the transmitted signal. This change, or shift, is known as the Doppler shift. The greater the relative speed, the greater the frequency shift. By measuring the amount of frequency shift, police radar can accurately calculate and display the target speed of the vehicle.
Police radar units can come in different forms. There are handheld radar guns and permanently mounted systems that are usually installed on the light bar on the roof of the police car. Police radar can operate on X band, K band, or Ka band. Ka band is currently the most widely used since the radar guns are smaller, and have narrower transmitter beamwidths, which allows for a narrower target focus.
X band radar has a frequency between 8.0 and 12 GHz. Because this frequency is used for various other devices, it can often create confusion for radar detectors, especially if the software that filters through the signals isn’t up-to-date or updated frequently. Both automatic door openers and some law enforcement radar guns operate around 10-10.5 GHz, which creates a situation where automatic doors trigger false alerts. Luckily, higher quality radar detectors are able to use GPS technology to learn the stationary location of automatic doors and block false alerts from commonly visited areas to prevent annoyance to drivers.
What Is K Band Radar?
K band radar has a frequency between 18 GHz and 27 GHz and is also used in many everyday technologies, which can create frustration since they can trigger false alerts in radar detectors. Collision avoidance systems and blind spot monitoring systems in newer vehicles commonly use frequencies that are common to police radar, which can cause a radar detector to alert drivers whenever a vehicle with this technology is near them. Luckily, advanced radar detectors with IVT filtering helps filter out these unwanted false alarms.
Another technology that operates at the same frequency as K band radar is speed cameras, which commonly use a 24.125 GHz frequency and can take two photos per second. Photo radar can be disguised on roadsides, mounted at intersections, or even attached to patrol vehicles. Having a radar detector can help identify upcoming hidden cameras so drivers can make the correct adjustments before being faced with a ticket.
Other K band transmitters are dummy radar and safety radar signs. Dummy radar is typically used on highways and in construction zones and emits a frequency to set off radar detectors purposefully even though these signs don’t record or issue tickets. Safety radar measures the speed of an approaching vehicle and flashes or displays speeds to alert drivers of how fast they are traveling. These are commonly seen along busy roads that have schools or when speed limits are reduced drastically approaching a populated area. These transmitters work to inform drivers to pay extra attention to their speed and create safer driving conditions within communities.
Are Radar Detectors Worth It?
Radar detectors were developed to inform drivers of what kind of radar is in their surroundings, and what direction a threat is coming from, allowing time to adjust driving behavior accordingly. Speed traps, cameras, and similar threats have their own unique alerts that can be specifically identified by location, GPS, or through Escort’s Defender Database.
Overall, radar detectors can easily pay for themselves if they help drivers avoid just one or two tickets. Older radar detectors are not nearly as effective as newer, more advanced models that can be updated regularly through a Wi-Fi connection. For drivers considering whether to save or splurge, newer models present significant advantages.
Here are some reasons why a newer model can be more beneficial.
Easy Updates - Updating an Escort radar detector or driver alert system is simple; enable a Wi-Fi connection or use our Detector Tools Pro software to allow your detector to quickly update with the newest changes in vehicle technology.
AutoLearn™ Intelligence - Since some automatic doors also fall within these frequencies, Escort’s AutoLearn™ intelligence plays a role in enhancing radar detectors accuracy. AutoLearn utilizes GPS to associate confirmed false alert frequencies from automatic doors with a location, meaning that they’ll "learn" that the location is not associated with a police radar or a traffic camera.
Quickly Add Manual Submissions - Another useful feature of Escort radar detectors and driver alert systems is a manual button that can be pressed 3 times in succession to manually lock out a false alert being omitted from a location. For drivers who routinely pass a traffic camera emitting a K band frequency, they can manually input a mute function instantly instead of relying on continuous learning functionality.
Regardless, there are some instances where a radar detector just may not work.
One circumstance where radar detectors aren’t 100% proven is when Instant-On Mode is used for surprise scans. This mode was created as a feature to outsmart detectors by transmitting radar in a short burst less than 1 second long. These short bursts mean that drivers don't have enough time to respond to their radar detector’s cautionary tone. However, this technology isn’t fully accurate and isn’t always fully enforced by the law, which can result in police issuing warnings instead of actual tickets.
What Is Ka Band Radar?
Ka band radar has a frequency between 26.5 and 40 GHz, but police radar has to be between 33.0 and 36.0 GHz. However, Ka band radar can be hard to detect since police can use 3 different frequencies: 33.8 GHz, 34.7 GHz, and 35.5 GHz. Lower quality radar detectors may not have the sensitivity to these frequencies, meaning they might miss a signal and not respond quickly enough for a driver to make a change. Higher-end radar detectors can segment the Ka spectrum to focus on targeting the 3 frequencies used by police. False alerts caused by Ka band radar are uncommon, meaning drivers should pay attention if detectors signal that these are present.
RADAR vs LIDAR
Police speed enforcement technologies don’t solely rely on radar. They can also use light detection and ranging to identify a speeding vehicle. Most modern detectors can also pick up on the laser devices that police sometimes use to issue speeding tickets. However, LIDAR needs to be aimed exactly at a particular vehicle in order to work, which doesn’t make this type of speed enforcement effective at long range, but is useful in heavy traffic, although police must be stationary and outside of their patrol car (or have a window or door open while inside the vehicle) to use LIDAR. For drivers wanting advanced notice of laser gun usage, Laser Shifters are a great defense against all laser guns, including the advanced variable rate (VPR) guns. Using a radar detector in tandem with a Laser Shifter offers the ultimate driving protection.
Can Police Tell You’re Using a Radar Detector?
With "stealth" technology, a radar detector can go undetected. Although not all products contain this more advanced feature, those that do have it help prevent police from recognizing if you’re using a radar detector. Radar detectors are legal in 49 states, other than in Virginia or Washington D.C.
Using a radar detector to become more aware of your surroundings and attentive to your speed can help you drive smarter and safer. With customizable features and a network of software-based updates, a quality radar detector can be advantageous to commuters, driving enthusiasts, or any other type of recreational driver. Driver alert systems, a combination of dash cam, radar detector, and an integrated app, elevates the driving experience to an even higher level and is also an option for those wanting ultimate detection and protection.