Myths

Myth #1: The Detector Ban Makes Our Roads Safer.
There is absolutely no evidence that Virginia’s ban on radar detectors has any safety benefit. The fact is, our nation’s roads are becoming safer each and every year. The nation’s fatality rates have fallen consistently for almost two decades. Virginia’s fatality rates have also fallen, but not any more dramatically than it has nationwide. Furthermore, the only other jurisdiction that has a radar detector ban, Washington D.C., has had its fatality rate drop at a much slower rate than any state. Between 1985 and 2003 the fatality rate for the entire nation dropped by 40 percent. In D.C. it went down by only 13 percent.

Myth #2: Radar Detector Owners are Dangerous Drivers.
People who own radar detectors are no more dangerous than other drivers. Detector owners are involved in more accidents on average, but they also drive significantly farther than most people without radar detectors. When distance driven is taken into account, motorists without radar detectors actually have a higher accident rate per vehicle miles traveled. This point was first demonstrated in the Yankelovich Clancy Shulman Study in 1987. Their findings were reinforced by the results of a MORI (Market & Opinion Research International) Radar Detector Survey conducted in 2001 on behalf of the Drivers’ Technology Association in Great Britain.

Myth #3: Most States Ban Radar Detectors.
This is not true. In fact, Virginia is the only state that bans the use of radar detectors. There have been literally hundreds of attempts to ban these devices in other states, but after the facts are examined only one other state, Connecticut, ever passed such legislation. (Connecticut’s ban was later repealed.) Police officers in Michigan and Kentucky attempted to use existing state statutes to prohibit the use of detectors, but the courts consistently defended the right of people to own detectors.

Myth #4: Radar Detectors Cause Speeding.
There is no evidence to suggest that radar detectors encourage speeding or make motorists drive faster than they would otherwise. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. In the 1980s, research conducted in Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, New Mexico, and Texas showed that when unmanned radar was beamed across sections of interstates, a significant reduction in speed was observed. This occurred because detector owners slowed when their detectors picked up the beam. This research also demonstrated that motorists presumed to have detectors (because they reduced their speed when encountering the radar beam) were represented in all speed categories.

Myth #5: Police Radar is Always Accurate.
There are numerous reasons why a police officer’s radar reading may be inaccurate. First of all, radar is supposed to be used to confirm the speed of a vehicle a police officer has “visually” determined to be speeding. In reality, officers are often using radar in locations that conceal their squad cars, which makes visual estimation impossible. This means that common radar errors, such as interference from natural features like hills or trees, as well as man-made structures like metal bridges, power lines, and road signs are difficult to prevent. If an officer uses radar only to confirm his or her speed estimation, inaccurate measurements can be identified. Otherwise, they could go unchecked. Radar by its very nature (it is a wide beam) is prone to “shadowing” errors as well. Radar has a tendency to reflect off the largest vehicle in its range, not necessarily the fastest or closest. Due to these shortcomings, electronic interference, inadequate equipment, lax maintenance standards, and poor training, some experts have estimated that as many as one in every five radar tickets is invalid.