A radar detector is your most reliable ally against speed traps on the US roads, especially if you are a young and/or relatively inexperienced driver.
The big question is if these devices are actually illegal. The answer is not simple, because every state has its specific road laws concerning radar detectors.
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Using Radar Detectors Isn’t a Criminal Offense
By law, radar detectors are legal to use in any non-commercial vehicle traveling in the territory of the United States of America, with the only exception of Washington DC and Virginia.
However, all professional drivers should bear in mind that the use of such devices on commercial vehicles of over ten thousand pounds is strictly forbidden across the US. Read more on that here.
Radars Not Allowed in Military Bases
If you are a military, or a civilian employee working in a military base in the territory of the United States or its overseas territories, bear in mind that you are not allowed to have a radar detector in your car.
If you are a planning a visit to a US military facility, make sure to remove the radar detector from your vehicle before you drive in.
Detectors Aren’t The Same As Jammers
Even if radar detectors are mostly legal to own and use across the United States (except for commercial vehicles and military facilities), the use of radar jammers is criminalized by federal law.
You risk ending up behind bars or, if you are lucky, you may get away with a felony charge or a hefty fine, if you get caught using one of these.
Radar Detectors Make Roads Safer
The most obvious reason why radar detectors are mostly legal in the US is that they do not affect one’s concentration and driving ability. On the contrary, they alert the driver against potential speed traps and make them slow down, thus making the roads safer for crossing pedestrians, pets or strays.
So, it turns out that the main purpose of the radar detector is to kill your speed and it can thus save your life.
A Few Tips About Installation
Even if using and owning a radar detector in the USA is not a crime, you should know that the states of Minnesota and California prosecute the installation of such devices on one’s windscreen, as they may impair the driver’s vision. We recommend that you mount it on your dashboard or on the sun visor.
Switch Your Radar Detector Off in Virginia and Washington
If you’re planning a trip across Washington or Virginia, we advise you to switch your radar detector off or, even better, leave it home.
The local traffic police have devices to detect radar detectors and the drivers who use them risk a ticket. In these states one can have a radar detector, but is forbidden from using it in their vehicle.
Radar Detector Use In New York
According to the latest amendments to the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, a laser detector or a radar detector is forbidden in any motor vehicle with an estimated weight of more than 18,000 pounds. Radar detectors in lighter vehicles are allowed.
What About Texas?
Texas traffic law allows the use of radar detectors on motor vehicles, with the exception of commercial ones. The use of radar jammers, however, is strictly forbidden.
What About Laser Jammers?
A radar jammer is a gadget that interferes with the police’s radars and prevents them from detecting your current speed. While radar jammers are forbidden under the federal law, the use and possession of laser jammers is not prohibited yet.
However, the following ten states strictly ban the use of laser jammers: Utah, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North California, South Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee and Colorado.
If You Are a Pro, Forget About Radar Detectors
If you are a professional driver working in the US, we advise you to forget about radar detectors. You risk a bulky fine, or even a license suspension, if a traffic police officer finds such a device installed in your bus or truck.
What If I Pair A Laser Jammer With A Radar Detector?
Before buying a device combining a radar detector and a laser jammer, make sure they are legal in your state or county. Whether it is illegal to have a radar detector paired with a laser jammer in your vehicle is a question every driver must find the answer to before buying such a device.
Laser Jammers’ Time Is Up
A Laser jammer works on the same principle as a radar jammer, but it doesn’t affect aircraft and air traffic control radars and is thus considered safer.
If you plan to rent a car outside the US, bear in mind that the use of laser jammers in most countries is strictly forbidden. You can soon expect the US government to criminalize the use of these devices as well.