Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In Search of the Best GPS-enabled Radar Detector

If you're pestered by red light and speed cameras and find yourself panic-braking for photo radar vans, you may be looking to buy a GPS-enabled radar detector. Range-topping models include the BEL (Beltronics) GX65; from Cobra Electronics, the XRS 9960G and XRS R10G; and from Escort, the Escort Passport 9500ix.

But you're unlikely to have unearthed a review where their ability to detect photo radar has been tested. Nor has the accuracy of their camera-detection databases been analyzed.

For someone driving in photo-enforcement territory, that's like carrying a piece for self defense without knowing if it will fire. Eventually you'll find out, but it may not be the result you'd hoped for.

Fortunately for the curious, we recently completed an 18-month evaluation of GPS-enabled radar detectors, including all four of these models. We tested them against the most common types of photo radar, from Redflex and ATS (American Traffic Solutions) and checked to verify adequate warning distance for red light and speed cameras.

We also analyzed the accuracy of their GPS camera-location databases by visiting 104 red light and speed cameras scattered among 19 communities in four states. (Why do you think this took 18 months?)

In the process we discovered that some camera databases are years out of date and fail to warn of a disturbing number of cameras. Others irritate by constantly alerting to phantom cameras. And except for veteran stunt drivers, some are too clunky to use safely while driving. To learn more: