Defensive Driving Tips for Radar & Laser Detector Users
Stay out of the passing lane when possible but do not weave in and out of lanes erratically. Make fluid movements and use turn signals for lane changes.
The best defense is a good eye – keep focused and stay alert. Any vehicle parked in either safety lane or the median could be a patrol car. Any car rolling in the left on-coming lane with a clear shot at you could be a patrol car. Any vehicle in your rear view mirror could be a patrol car.
Watch for brake light activity ahead of you where there should be none; a patrol car could be present. The automatic reaction when sighting a patrol car is to start applying the brakes. This is especially handy at night where patrol cars sit dark in the median with the officer wielding a handheld radar or laser gun.
Watch out for left-hand turns on undivided interstates – at some point in time you could be perfectly lined up with a moving radar gun in the opposite lane. You will be looking the officer in the eyes!
You can slightly relax on sweeping right hand turns on divided highways, as you will not line up with a radar gun coming in the opposite direction. However, exercise care when rounding turns to the right where the view of the road ahead is blocked by trees or vertical rock walls. A patrol car may be parked just around the bend in the emergency lane ready to activate rear firing radar.
When closing in on a car that looks like a Crown Victoria or some other typical patrol car --- if there is a right seat passenger it is less likely to be a patrol car. Likewise when the rear badge starts to look like a Mercury emblem it is probably safe to pass.
On divided interstates look for the “NO U-turn” or “Authorized Vehicles Only” signs (signs typically show a turn around arrow with slash through) in the center median designating a possible speed gun or laser trap ambush site where patrol cars frequent. This is particularly true is states where heavy brush is planted as the center “guardrail”
For on-ramps partially blocked by growth or rock cuts it is a good idea to look back and right or scan your passenger-side mirror to look for parked cars back up the on-ramp. Downshifting to scrub off speed is preferred to lighting up the brake lights depending on your vehicle speed.
Cars parked on an overpass lined up with your lane should be treated with caution.
Four foot wide painted strips on the right and left emergency lanes are timing strips for air patrols to clock your speed and report to a patrol car on the ground. On calm clear days be alert for planes circling above the highway.
On divided interstate highways with concrete barriers separating the N/S or E/W lanes with wide left hand emergency lane areas watch for radar / laser activity from a parked patrol in the left emergency lane. The patrol car can more easily target the fast lane instead of having to shoot across 3-8 lanes of traffic from the right emergency lane.
Exercise care when cresting hills at speeds in excess of the posted limit. These are prime ambush spots where the element of surprise is in the officer’s favor.
When the grassy median is soaking wet an on-coming patrol car will probably not cross into the median at highway speed, and maybe not at all, but instead will wait for a paved switch-back.
If you find yourself running 15+ mph over the posted speed limit on an interstate highway and a car is closing fast behind you, you should probably reduce your speed and allow the car to pass. This is true especially if the car closed rapidly but then just dropped in 1/8 mile behind to “hover” at your speed. If it is a patrol car the officer most probably was entering the highway as you passed the entrance ramp and you caught his or her attention and the chase down and “clock” ensued.
On interstate highways police patrol cars travel at the posted speed and most often sample oncoming traffic with opposite lane radar. The patrol car will only catch up to vehicles running under the posted speed. In the stationary mode the preferred attack method is rear radar sampling on-coming traffic or center median shooting oncoming traffic with a laser gun. For these reasons rear radar is typically more confusing than it is helpful. In hilly terrain, urban areas with tall buildings, roads with multiple overpasses most rear radar systems ping pong front to rear warning which can be extremely irritating.
Try to avoid letting the patrol car see your brake lights including in his/her rear view mirror – the damage if any may already been done and bright red taillights may be viewed as an admission of guilt.
Don’t count on oncoming traffic to flash their lights to warn of a speed trap. Paul Revere passed away a long time ago.
The horsepower required to overcome the coefficient of drag times the frontal area of your vehicle goes up at roughly the cube of the speed. So does the attention you draw. Running at excessive speed on public roads is dangerous and expensive.