Fact #1: Detectors Protect Citizens from Unfair Police Tactics
The fact is, radar readings by police officers are often in error. They are subject to a variety of electronic malfunctions and external interference. In fact, some experts estimate that as many as 20 percent of all radar readings are incorrect. In light of this reality, there is a strong case for citizens to be able to monitor the use of radar, so they don’t become victims of false readings.
Fact #2: Banning Detectors is an Attack on Individual Liberty.
There is no justification for Virginia to ban radar detectors. The state’s ban is an affront to personal freedom. Everyday citizens should have the right to know if they are under surveillance. The state isn’t able to prevent a person from knowing if his phone is tapped or his house is bugged with listening devices. Likewise, a person should be able to determine if his or her driving is under surveillance. Unjust enforcement practices are not unheard of, and radar detectors can keep safe motorists from being exploited by abusive speed traps.
Fact #3: The Detector Ban is Not in the Best Interest of Virginians.
As already discussed, the ban denies citizens the right to use an important tool to defend themselves against excessive enforcement practices. Furthermore, the detector ban is defended primarily by insurance companies, which benefit from the surcharge revenue generated by speeding tickets. This not only calls into question the motivations of ban supporters, it also shows quite clearly how their agenda is in direct conflict with the best interest of Virginians. Citizens do not benefit in any way from insurance surcharges. In fact, these charges have a clear negative effect. Furthermore, Virginia businesses can be hurt by the detector ban. Electronic distributors lose business to neighboring states, tourism can be negatively impacted, and the government misses out on valuable sales tax revenue. All of these unfortunate consequences are associated with a ban that has had no positive effect whatsoever.
Fact #4: Radar Detectors Do Not Have a Negative Effect on Safety
The nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia, which is the only state to ban radar detectors, has not seen a more substantial drop in fatalities than the nation as a whole. There is no evidence that radar detectors encourage speeding or dangerous driving behavior. In reality, radar detectors can reduce travel speeds, aid enforcement, and promote safer driving. The Yankelovich Clancy Shulman Study conducted in 1987 showed that the accident rate for radar detector owners was actually 23 percent lower than it was for other motorists.
Fact #5: The Detector Ban Exposes the True Motivations of Traffic Enforcement
A noticeable police presence does more to lower travel speeds and prevent dangerous driving than any other tactic. Radar detectors do not hinder this benefit; rather they help make the police more noticeable, which has a positive effect on driving behavior. However, some police agencies and other private interests are less concerned with actual safety than with traffic-ticket revenue. Some may argue that tickets are a necessary deterrent, but in reality, tickets, and the heavy fines associated with them, have little effect on driving behavior. A study conducted by the Transportation Research Board found that the states with the most severe penalties for speeding often also had the highest average speeds.