Friday, September 25, 2009

Tested: Radar Detectors vs. the Latest Photo Radar

For a 1991 Automobile magazine story, I was forced to travel halfway across the country to conduct the first test of radar detectors versus photo radar. For a recent such test the nearest photo radar van was less than two miles from my office, with nearly 100 others roving around the state. And as recently as last week I received e-mail from reader Shane Ponting in New Zealand, asking about radar detectors to counter the Redflex vans in his country. This is a testament to the proliferation of these mobile ticket-dispensers during the 18-year interim.

To any who dismiss these roving revenue-generating devices as unlikely ever to appear on their own doorstep, I'd advise a little caution: The allure to cash-hungry governments is nigh irresistible. By calling it a public-safety initiative rather than an unwritten tax, politicians and government hacks regard it as an unbeatable combination. (Never mind that the speed vans have zero effect on speeds and the photo enforcement industry slyly fabricates public opinion polls showing overwhelming citizen support for them.)

Those looking to avoid photo radar traps have one tool at their disposal, the radar detector. But my tests over the years have shown that few detectors are adept at ferreting out this low-powered kind of radar. And with the recent deployment of a new type of TTL-pulsed radar by Redflex Traffic Systems, the ante has just been upped.

This called for a new test, pitting nine of the latest radar detectors against this newest of photo radar units. Among others, the test contenders include:

• BEL (Beltronics) GX65
• Cobra XRS R10G
• Cobra XRS 9960G
• Escort RedLine
• Escort Passport 9500ix
• Valentine One (software version 3.872)

The full story and test results are on and may surprise you.