Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Most Lethal Form of Police RADAR and How to Protect Against It

Most Lethal Form of Police RADAR & How to Protect Against It

Updated: 23 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

Lately there has been some buzz online concerning a form of police radar, which I'll refer to as instant-on police radar (including all of its variations).

Since, I believe, instant-on police radar is the most lethal form of police radar that exists, I thought it might be helpful to share my perspective on this topic.

What exactly is instant-on radar?

Instant-on radar is a method of measuring speed when the officer turns on (and then off) the transmitter of his/her radar unit for a discreet (often limited) period of time for the purposes of targeting a particular vehicle or series of vehicles that is in close proximity to the radar operator and in a manner which provides limited advanced notice (to those who drive with radar detectors). It can be used in either a stationery or moving position and is generally used as an "ambush" tactic with patrol vehicles routinely hidden from plain view until the last moments (or even from a hidden position from the rear).

This is opposed to constant-on radar operating mode, where the radar transmitter is left on continuously (or for an extended period of time) and not used in a manner that particularly targets any one vehicle or series of vehicles.

What defines an instant-on trigger pull of radar is not so much the time of the trigger-pull (ie; the duration of radar transmission), but the when the triggered is pulled (regardless of the radar transmission duration).

It is the when, that makes instant-on, such a lethal threat to us drivers.

Why? Because if you are the one being targeted with instant-on (even with a radar detector), then the great likelihood is the officer will have been able to clock your speed before you (and your detector) had enough time to react (in the event you were "speeding").

Instant-on radar was specifically created decades ago, to foil radar detectors and to make it harder on us drivers, who chose to use a radar detector to outwit police radar enforcement while adding to driver situational awareness within the cockpit.

This effort has continued, particularly by one police radar gun manufacturer, MPH.

POP™ is a "feature" that was originally introduced (in prototype form) by MPH in 2002.

These first prototypes were designed to transmit a brief burst of radar signal for a duration of 150ms or 0.150 seconds. It was believed (by MPH) that this duration would be quick enough to beat-out radar detectors whose potential reaction times had increased from 50ms (0.050 seconds)—in the days of X-band and K-band only produced detectors—as a consequence of the incorporation of Ka detection and the additional time required to scan/sweep this superwide Ka band as well as an extension of time required to see some brief Ka-emissions (as a means of reducing falsing) from a huge amount of cheaply produced 9,10, and 11-band Cobra radar detectors (a problem that exists to this day).

It is not unheard of that some radar detectors require or are designed to require a radar transmission to exist for a period of 800ms to 1500ms ( 0.8-1.5 seconds!) before alerting to it.

As it turned out several companies (namely Whistler) were still able to detect these prototypes' transmissions. Having been made aware of this fact, MPH then adjusted their models to operate at 67ms (roughly half their initial design). It was at this time (2003) that MPH produced their Bee III 33.8Ghz Ka POP radar gun.

The technology was then produced in a K-band gun in 2004 at also 67ms (0.067 seconds).

Over time the radar detector manufacturers responded with models that were able to detect these brief transmissions. In 2005, MPH released another POP-enabled K-band police radar capable of transmitting at a blistering 16ms (0.016 seconds). Even now, the mighty Valentine 1, can generally only alert to this about 1 out of 10 times (10% of the time).

Why does all this matter?

In so far as POP is concerned, I don't believe it matters much, as POP mode is not an IACP approved form of measuring speed, nor does it provide a tracking history, technically procedurally required for the operation of police radar. Furthermore, police laser, I believe, is better suited to the task of allowing traffic enforcement to measure speed in a way that minimizes advanced alerting to other drivers who operate a radar detector while providing the tracking history in accordance with IACP guidelines.

However in so far as being able to detect brief glimpses of radar, it matters a lot.

Quick-trigger, is a term applied to radar operators who operate instant-on radar in a manner that amounts to about 500ms (or 0.5 seconds). Generally performed by radar operators using hand-held guns, like POP it is intended to outwit radar detectors.

While not necessarily providing the tracking history required, some (particularly younger) officers operate their radar using quick-triggering instant-on, others (generally older and more experienced) officers tend to operate instant-on (or constant-on) in a manner that is more in accordance with IACP guidelines (requiring a tracking history and therefore additional transmission time to obtain that history).

The ability of a radar detector alone to save you from a quick-triggering as you are being targeted is no different than being the only car subjected to even longer durations of instant-on when you are the only vehicle on the road.

The value of a radar detector in alerting to, what I believe, this most lethal form of police radar is not when you are being targeted, it is when another vehicle ahead of you is being targeted and your radar detector is alerting to that fact.

The value then becomes you don't have to worry about out-braking such an encounter as you have already been afforded the additional time to gradually (and more safely) adjust your speed because you already know he is there.

That is the value of a quick radar detector over a slow(er) one, regardless of its sensitivity or long-range detection ability (to constant-on or longer-pulled instant-on) and its (relative) quietness.

There are instances when a downstream radar detector can get a brief glimpse of instant-on radar (or even constant-on radar) which amounts to a similar situation to being exposed to a quick-trigger instant-on encounter.

This routinely happens from reflections that occur for brief periods of time (around curves) or from other moving vehicles (or stationery objects when you are in motion) which are portions of the original radar beam (regardless of its original transmission duration).

So the question becomes: is it worth having a quieter (ie; slower and/or more heavily filtered) radar detector that doesn't provide advanced alerting to such encounters?

From my perspective, it's the balance that matters.

That's what I appreciate about Whistler's approach to the design of their radar detectors. They've got balancing, and the fact they give the user the choice of what that balance is (filter, filter 1, and filter 2) and the Beltronics approach with their Beltronics STi-R (R.I.P.) that provided additional performance, by way of user-selectable band-segmentation and reduced filter processing overhead or delay, and of course, Valentine Research, for what they have always been and continue to do (ie; Valentine's continuous evolution and refinement of that balance).

It's really a simple matter of personal preference (and choice): risk versus reward.

I certainly wouldn't choose to belittle or denigrate someone (or group) personally for choosing, accepting, or even questioning a different balance.

Happy and Safe Motoring.

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