Thursday, January 01, 2009

X-band Police Traffic Radar: Reports of its Demise, Greatly Exaggerated

MPH K-55 X-band Police Radar Unit (Photo Taken: 01 Jan 09)

MPH K-55, MPH Python II®, MPH Python III® X Band Radar Units in Service with Police and Traffic Enforcement


I recently received an email question from a reader of my blog asking me whether or not it was safe to turn off X-band detection in a radar detector since X-band radar was 'not being used any more' and since it only serves to make a radar detector 'false' more frequently.

Surprised at the certainty of the sender's statement that X-band police radar was no longer being used, I responded with a question of my own: What leads you to believe that X-band radar is no longer being used?

The response I received referred me to a page found at SpeedZones, specifically what was written in the summary section at the bottom of the page:

The last state to use X band radar guns was New Jersey. They took them out of service. Fifty of the fifty states use K or Ka band radar guns with forty-one (41) states standardizing on Ka band at the following frequencies: 33.8 GHz, 34.7 GHz, 35.5 GHz. The predominant frequency is 34.7 GHz. With 99.99% accuracy you will not encounter X band radar guns in the United States or Canada. Of the four American makers of radar guns, no one makes X band anymore.

Needless to say, I was surprised to be reading such authoritative commentary, especially since I frequently encounter X-band traffic radar while traveling through my neighboring state of New Jersey—the latest encounter ocurring just several weeks ago on NJ Highway 42 just north of the Atlantic City Expressway.

In fact during my last visit to Ohio, I too had encountered X-band on I-70 East of Columbus. I have also encountered X-band radar in other Southern states such as North Carolina and Mississippi during my participation in the FireBall Run cross-country rally, last year.

In each of these encounters, had X-band been disabled on any of my radar detectors, I would have potentially been subject to an unexpected and unpleasant traffic stop.

Just in case I had missed a recent development in New Jersey, I decided to spend a part of my New Year's day off by taking a quick trip up to Warren County (located in northwest NJ) and a NJ State Trooper barracks located close to I-78 to see for myself what the absolute current status of X-band usage was in the state of New Jersey.

This is what I found:

Of the 10 NJ state patrol vehicles parked (one with its engine running), 60% (six of 10) had radar units mounted inside, 100% (six out of six) of these units were MPH K55 X-band traffic radar units.

It seems that reports of X-band's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

MPH K55 X band Police Traffic Radar Unit (Photo Taken: 01 Jan 09)

A subsequent discussion with a senior on-duty state trooper confirmed what I already believed: that while police laser (lidar) offers distinct advantages to troopers monitoring speeds on heavily traveled highways and interstates, such as the adjacent I-78, MPH K-55 X band radar units still have a place for moving patrol vehicles especially on secondary highways and roads throughout New Jersey, particularly, given their faithful and reliable multi-decade record of service.

To be sure, Ka-band traffic radar is steadily making in-roads into New Jersey, especially with local municipalities (such as Hamilton County's Hammonton Twp. patrol vehicles), as is police laser (lidar).

But, it has only been recently that the New Jersey State Police have begun giving consideration to Ka-band as a reliable alternative to the tried-and-tested MPH K-55 X-band police radar unit.

In 2007 a test was undertaken, at the cost of $53,000, to determine the scientific reliability (and subsequent court admissibility) of Ka-band usage as a means of speed measurement and enforcement under varying weather conditions (Affect of Weather on the Performance of Ka-band Traffic Radar).

Perhaps one day X-band traffic radar will no longer be seen in states like New Jersey (and Ohio), but that day has not yet come and I was reminded by MPH Industries that X-band radar is still specified on the IACP's CPL and that there are plenty of MPH K-55, MPH Python II® and MPH Python III® X-band radars in service as of today.

MPH K55 X-band Radar Unit (Photo Taken: 01 Jan 09)

Upon further examination of the SpeedZone's summary paragraph, there appears to be more factual errors:

Inaccurate Statement #1: The last state to use X band radar guns was New Jersey.

Factually Correct Statement: as of 1 January 2009, New Jersey still deploys X-band radar. X-band which can also be found—in varying degree—in Ohio, North Carolina, Mississippi, Quebec among others.

Inaccurate Statement #2: They [New jersey] took them out of service.

Factually Correct Statement: Based-upon my empirical observations, this statement is 100% wrong.

Inaccurate Statement #3: Fifty of the fifty states use K or Ka band radar guns...

Factually Correct Statement: See #1

Inaccurate Statement #3: With 99.99% accuracy you will not encounter X band radar guns in the United States or Canada.

Factually Correct Statement: Based-upon my empirical observations, this statement is 100% wrong.

Inaccurate Statement #4: Of the four American makers of radar guns, no one makes X band anymore.

Factually Correct Statement: MPH continues to produce and offer X-band police radar with their latest MPH Python III®.

I am surprised to see that of the six sentences making up the first paragraph of SpeedZones' summary, that five of them are patently inaccurate.

I have a lot respect for what Speed Measurement Labs has done over the years, but in response to the question posed to me by my blog reader, I felt compelled to set the record straight for his benefit (and others who may be pondering the same question: whether or not to outright disable X band radar reception on their radar detector).

I am afraid that it is this kind of assertive thinking which may be contributing to the continued de-emphasis of X-band reception by the radar detector manufacturers with the majority of windshield-mount radar detectors (with some notable exceptions such as the Beltronics STi Driver and the Valentine 1).

By de-emphasizing X-band radar (and even K-band radar to some extent) sensitivity, certain radar detectors can simply and inexpensively be made "quieter" and less-prone to "falsing" (because they are less sensitive or slower to respond) as opposed to utilizing more advanced (and more expensive) filtering techniques, while maintaining higher degrees of sensitivity and quickness, such as the Auto Sensitivity modes of Beltronics and Escort—provided on certain of their high-end GPS-enabled radar detectors like the Beltronics GX65, Escort 9500ci, Escort 9500i, and Escort 9500ix models—which provide real-time variable sensitivity based upon actual vehicle speed and/or the ability to permanently lock-out known stationery locations of X band (and K band) falses.

There is one police radar band that I would certainly recommend leaving off—particularly if you drive throughout North America. That band is Ku radar.

Several years ago, around the time that Cobra was pronouncing their ability to detect 12 bands (Ku-band being one of them), there was a "claim" (also by SpeedZones) that Ku band was on its way to the U.S. (I even blogged this some years ago).

As it turned out Ku-band never did materialize even though [some of] the other radar detector manufacturers re-engineered several of their flagship radar detector models (at a not inconsequential expense) to play "catch-up" (if only in appearance) with Cobra's marketing-claim of the day.

Now Ku-band is a radar band that hasn't been produced for many years and I suspect that the number of Ku-band police radar units still in use today (throughout the entire world) is fewer than the number of X-band units currently operating in the state of New Jersey, alone. Furthermore, Ku band radar nor any police radar equipment operating with Ku-band doesn't appear on the IACP CPL of approved speed measurement devices.

To be clear: yes, as a percentage of overall radar encounters, X-band traffic radar will likely be small number (that is if you don't routinely drive in a state like New Jersey or Ohio), but I would strongly recommend that one be absolutely certain as to what forms of police radar are being used along one's individual driving route before disabling any one them completely.

As a driver who actually does use radar detectors to enhance driving safety, the last thing I would want another fellow radar detector user to do is disable reception to a band that could potentially prove hazardous to one's motor-vehicle abstract.

Happy New Year and Safe Motoring!

Veil Guy

23 comments:

milecrusher said...

Bob,
Great article with excellent information. I too will testify to the frequent use of X band in Ohio and especially in New Jersey. I hope everyone considers your advice. After all, I find it fairly easy to tap a mute button. Thanks again.

Veil Guy said...

MC,

Indeed, I hope so too.

Beltronics and Escort make it even easier for us with permanent false signal lockout on each of their GPS-enabled radar detectors.

Thoai said...

This my first post to the Veil Guy,

He and his team really do their homework from what I've experienced so far in the real world after reading many of his posts.

In fact I've just return from a trip to Tahoe and experienced quite a few more x bands than usual in my new Whistler xtr-695, not sure if they actually came from the troopers but the mere fact that I slowed down before I saw any of them saved me a few tickets.

I actually bought this radar detector because of reading his posts and will probably buy the Escort 9500ix as well. This guy really knows what he's talking about and I will always heed his advice before doing anything hasty as far as driving and radar detectors are concerned.

Thank you for your excellent work over the 10 months or so since I've discovered your posts,

Thoai (a believer in radar detectors once again)

Veil Guy said...

Thoai,

I believe MPH has provided traffic radar units under contract to Nevada over the years, so I believe it is entirely possible that you may have encountered a Python II or other MPH unit still in-service operating at X-band during your recent visit to Tahoe.

Thoai said...

Veil Guy,

I live in the bay area and travelled through Stockton and Sacramento to get to Tahoe. I encountered frequent Ka Pop's with no known frequencies other than the usual 34.7's, one 33.8, and many x bands during this trip.

Do you have any experience in this neck of the woods? If so, should I be worried about the instant K's and Ka's? Any info would be more than greatly appreciated.

Thoai

Veil Guy said...

Thaoi,

I once made a trip from San Jose to Lake Tahoe, by way of Sacramento for a day of 21 at Harrah's.

I believe it's safe to say that I would be prepared for all of them, particularly instant-on Ka (at 33.8 Ghz, 34.7 Ghz, and 35.5 Ghz) , instant-on K, and of course laser.

I think my best advice on how to drive properly with a radar detector is to simply drive as if you did not possess one.

If you rely first on your quick perceptions of the environment, more times than you may believe, you'll can spot a speed trap before your radar detector actually alerts.

You are fortunate to have a sensitive and quick detector like the XTR-695, its performance on Ka-band is exceptional.

InfinitiMoon said...

Thank you so much for the informative reminder and research. I decided, mostly on your reference to Mississippi, to re-enable X-band detection on my 9500ix in the truck and my 9500ci in the car. I frequently travel through Mississippi but live up in northwest Arkansas.

I couldn't believe it when I was driving through southwest Missouri this weekend and pulled into a quickie mart. When I parked, there were no radar signals in the area (first time I had been there). When I started back up, the unit went nuts on X-band. Sure enough, a Jasper County, MO, Sheriff's cruiser had pulled up to the pump and was pointed right at the back of my car. Out of curiosity, I backed out and drove past the car (unoccupied) very slowly. Slow enough to spot a large coffee-can sized radar unit with MPH plastered on the side.

So, the point is, even if most states have started to move away from X-band, that doesn't mean cash-strapped local and regional police forces are abandoning their old equipment. A speeding ticket from a Sheriff or a city Police officer is just as bad as a State Police speeding ticket.

This, of course, makes the GPS-based false alert learning/filtering available on the top-end Passport models that much more valuable in separating the noise from the real signals.

Anonymous said...

How do you find out if X band is being used in the Cincinnati OH area. I have never encountered an officer with X band in the 7 years I have been there?
I would assume the police dept would not give any info out on the subject.:)

Cameron said...

Hello,

How can i find the information about police radar guns in Illinois? Thanks.

E.B. said...

I encountered an X-band trap yesterday just outside the Atlantic City Expressway. It was a State Trooper parked hiding in the median under the cover of some trees. X-band is still heavily utilized in New Jersey.

Veil Guy said...

E.B.,

Indeed it is. I recently made two trips on the A.C. expressway and one on Route 55. I experienced a total of four X-band encounters. The NJ state police still predominately use X-band.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just bought a 9500ix here in Alberta, Canada and the person that sold it to me was very assertive when he insisted I let him turn on Ku. He said that alhough the local police and highway patrol do not use Ku the local county police do use it.

Veil Guy said...

Seriously doubt it.

Ku was used in a limited fashion in some eastern-bloc countries.

It is my belief that these little produced radar guns never made it to North America.

It's inclusion is more of a marketing response than of actual utility.

Turn it OFF.

PS: Congrats to Team Canada.

Jim said...

Superbly Excellent Blog, Veil Guy!! There are few honest people out there in the Radar Detection world and you are one of them! Thanks for the great work!

Anonymous said...

I certify/calibrate radar equipment for law enforcement in the state of Utah and I can tell you without question there are X band radars in use, as I have certified them. Not many, but there are a few out there.

Anonymous said...

Bringing my daughter back from ISU today 10/15/2010, Northbound outside of Normal Illinois, an oncoming car was flashing their lights. About 20 seconds later I got an X Band detection on a Passport 9500ix. About 10 to 20 seconds later an unmarked SUV appeared in the median,turned on its lights, and pulled in front of us and chased down a car that had already gone by.

Anonymous said...

I have not been in Jersey in a while and I figured the X Band alert was a false but I kicked the cruise control off anyways. Good thing ... the Troopers definitely are still using X Band.
Scott 8-18-2011

Anonymous said...

Please comment on "collision avoidance" systems on high end late model cars. Don't they also use X Band? My STi picked up a bunch passing Mercedes, a Volvo and Ala Jag on the way from AL to VA this last weekend.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what I needed to hear. I live in NH where the only X-Band alerts I've encountered so far have seemed to be coming from buildings, but I have to spend the next few weeks in NJ so this article has been very valuable. X-Band stays on. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I had both redline and escort 9500ix going and a ohio state patrol came over a hill and bam x band went off he got a ticket going 79 in a 55 the ohio patrol us x band alot when driving when stopped they use laser

Anonymous said...

X Band is alive and well in NJ as of 08/18/2012. Mount Olive NJ has a brand-new unmarked cruiser with X band, and the Franklin Township (somerset County) police departments still use it. While these guns are old, they are still lethal when used for instant-on encounters. It will take a few years for X band to disappear.

Anonymous said...

I live in Alabama, and patrol with a MPH K-55 x-band everyday. I see it as if your not doing anthing wrong then you'll have nothing to worry about. What most people don't understand is Law Enforcement Officers are trained to visually gauge the speed of a vehicle and the radar only confirms the speed. If a cop doesn't have radar, but can determine you are speeding.....you can be issued a ticket for prudent reasonable speed. Hope this helps some of you.

Anonymous said...

North Carolina has decertified X band as of 6/1/14. The NCHP has already pulled K-55 units from their cars having upgraded to the Golden Eagle II. There may be a few locals still running X band until June, but most of the locals have upgraded to better Ka units (as in Stalkers or Bee III's) than the state has thanks to generous Federal grants.