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Avoid speeding tickets and license demerit points with a radar detector

What does a radar detector do?

A radar detector is a specialized device for your vehicle. People think of it as a “police detector” because the device gives the driver of a car advance warning when police are actively monitoring car speeds using a radar gun. The best radar detectors provide enough of a warning for the motorist to slow down before they are ticketed for speeding.

How do radar detectors work?

Police and traffic enforcement officials use radar guns to pinpoint motorists who are speeding. Most radar guns use doppler radar, which bounces sound waves off a moving object then measures the frequency change of the reflected wave to calculate an object’s speed. Some polices forces are also equipped with LIDAR guns, which use a laser instead of radio waves.

Radar detectors work by monitoring for electromagnetic emissions that indicate a radar gun is in use. Car radar detector units include circuitry to distinguish radar from similar electromagnetic sources like adaptive cruise control systems, blind spot monitoring systems, and automatic garage door openers. Some also offer GPS integration to help reduce false alarms.

The best radar detector models offer MRCD protection, alerting to the presence of the MultaRadar photo radar technology used by some Canadian cities—this makes them speed camera detectors as well.

Are radar detectors legal in Canada?

There are no radar detector Canada countrywide rules, with each province setting its own traffic laws. The devices are illegal in most provinces, but British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta currently permit their use.

In the parts of Canada where a radar detector is illegal, police will sometimes employ “radar detector detectors.” As the name implies, this allows law enforcement to detect when a motorist is illegally using a radar detector (it has to be active, not simply installed), potentially resulting in a ticket.

When would radar detectors be used?

The primary use case for a radar detector is to be able to drive a vehicle at higher than posted speed limits while minimizing the risk of a speeding ticket (which is not only expensive but also comes with the risk of a car insurance rate increase). With a car radar detector, drivers don’t have to be familiar with an area and the typical speed traps that locals know to avoid, they use their radar scanner to warn them of an active police speed monitoring presence.

Radar detectors Canada safety considerations

Even the top radar detectors need to be used responsibly. The idea is to reduce the risk of speeding tickets from scenarios where motorists are often caught off guard, such as stretches of road where the speed limit changes dramatically. They also allow a commuter to cruise slightly above the posted speed limit. It is unsafe to use a radar detector in order to speed recklessly. It is also unsafe to suddenly jam on the brakes when a radar detector alerts of police monitoring, so drivers need to know not to over-react, and to avoid driving so fast that they don’t have time to safely reduce speed when they are alerted.