Stephen Cox: Motoring – The Case for Radar Detectors

By Auto News Log • October 3rd, 2012

I’m a firm believer that every motorist should have a radar detector and know how to use it effectively. Every now and then I am asked, “Why should it be legal to own a radar detector, when its only purpose is to help you break the law?”

In reality, assisting someone with a regulatory violation is not the “only” purpose for a radar detector… in fact, that’s not even one of its purposes. A radar detector will help you clear the roadway for an approaching ambulance, observe the Safety Alert system (or several other systems like it), gain advance warning of a construction zone, or reroute around a traffic accident.

The simple fact is that driving without a radar detector is considerably less safe than driving with one. Radar detector owners are aware of ambulances, emergencies, construction and accidents long before anyone else.

But ultimately these are just side issues; the radar detector’s greatest service is the exercise of a fundamental right.

The real question is this: do citizens of a free country have the right to – at the very least – be aware when armed government agents are monitoring their behavior with no warrant and no probable cause?

A radar detector cannot keep an officer from issuing a ticket. A radar detector cannot make your car travel one mile per hour faster or slower. A radar detector cannot prevent a government agent from seeing, recording and monitoring your every move.

What it can do is alert you to the fact that you’re being spied on.

“What!” you say? “Spying? Isn’t that a little paranoid?” Well, let’s see.

An unmarked car is hiding behind an overpass with electronic surveillance equipment while secretly monitoring your behavior. The definition of a “spy” is “an agent employed by a state to obtain information,” or “one who secretly keeps watch on another or others.”

That’s not paranoia. It’s just the English language. That’s not a slam on cops, either. There are still a few good ones out there (http://oathkeepers.org/oath/). It’s just the English language. You are being spied on. That is an absolute, inescapable, grammatical fact.

The Declaration of Independence complained that King George had erected a “multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

That was 236 years ago. Sound familiar?

Unlike our more principle-oriented founding fathers (who settled such issues with an eight-year war), radar detector owners simply want to know exactly when they are being spied on.

We are already tracked like animals every day. We’re followed by unmarked cars. We’re timed, radared and lasered from behind the illegally tinted windows of well-concealed spy cars. We’re observed by helicopters and airplanes. They know your license plate number, vehicle identification number, social security number, driver’s license number, state registration number and insurance policy number. We’re photographed at intersections and in parking garages while automated hidden cameras track your speed.

A few years ago this could have sold as a Star Trek script. Now it’s the daily life of every American.

If your government can monitor your behavior without warrant or probable cause on the roadway, why can’t they do it everywhere else? Infra-red scanning devices that see through walls? Don’t laugh. Those things exist and police departments are ordering them like hotcakes. How bout satellites with resolution so clear they can read your license plate and microchip implants. That’s not science fiction. This stuff is reality.

What? You didn’t really mean for all that to be used in a similar fashion? Well, don’t rub the lamp if you don’t want the genie.

Now take a moment to reconsider the original question. A radar detector can no more keep you from getting a ticket than it can put a man on the moon. It can, however, preserve for us a shred of dignity and the fleeting illusion of privacy before such notions are completely outlawed in the Land of the Formerly Free.

Sure, maybe a few people will try to speed with a radar detector. But how many people speed without one? Last I checked, there’s not a single soul on the interstate that drives the speed limit anyway so let’s drop the holier-than-thou routine.

This is not about speeding. Never was. This is about salvaging what little dignity remains to American travelers and demanding the right to know when you’re being spied on.

Be American. Help this nation rediscover its collective spine. Get a radar detector and use it.

Stephen Cox
#20 Boschett Timepieces ARCA Truck
Co-host, Mecum Auto Auctions

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