A grey area for the boys in blue

Three million of us use radar detectors to beat police speed traps. Are they legal, and do they work? Yes and no. By Phil Llewellin and Penny Jackson

The Cobra Trap Shooter sat on my dashboard winking and bleeping madly. I was obviously about to arrive in a veritable nest of police speed detectors and should brake smartly. In fact I was stuck at the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel, the Thames crossing where any movement at all is a miracle.

This was my third day of driving around with a gadget that looks like a cross between a computer mouse and part of a mini-cab radio system. And it was proving more of an irritation than an aid. I had not come across one speed trap, unless the police had taken to operating from suburban garages and stationary traffic queues.

The detector was as simple to install as the instructions had promised. Plug the connecting wire into the car cigarette lighter socket, switch on the Trap Shooter and it's all systems go. I pressed the button which put it into city mode to cut out any extraneous radar interference in urban areas. If you don't do that, it is like sitting in an air-traffic control tower as the detector will even pick up a signal from an electrically operated door.

What I had really been hoping for, though, was evidence of the 360 degree protection provided by the omnidirectional laser where it really matters, on the open road. I wanted to be able smugly to breeze through a radar trap at a precise 70 mph. But after a couple of fruitless journeys on A roads, I returned to town. The only warnings the detector gave were of cameras that perch on traffic lights.

At least there I could see how the system worked: as the car drew closer to a camera, so the detector's warning lights moved from amber to red and the bleeps grew more frantic as the signal strength increased. As I passed the junction, the intensity of the lights decreased. Rather a lot of noise about nothing, although it made me think twice about sneaking through on amber.

It also gave me pause for thought on the ethics of using the detector. I felt I had not been driving faster or any less safely with it in the car. And wasn't its deterrent effect similar to the signs police frequently display about entering speed camera zones?

In the US states where the detector is illegal, the whole business has become a hi-tech game of cat and mouse. The police there use a VG2 gun which can detect radar detectors. So some models now incorporate digital Stealth VCO - a spin-off from the technology of its aeronautical namesake - which reduces the level of electronic leakage.

At a starting price of pounds 189 it would seem cheaper to stick to the speed limit. PJ

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
music

News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

    £25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    Geography Teacher

    £100 - £160 per day + mileage and expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: This out...

    KS2 supply teacher

    £80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting fo...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album