"The boys in blue are looking for youwith radar," was the mantra of New York City radio station WABC back in the '60s, which would then tell listeners the locations of that day's speed traps. The idea was to discourage speeding on those roads because many drivers would know if they were being monitored.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when a press release from Pep Boys arrived in my email about a sale that included a reasonably priced radar/laser detector. Well, as an engineer I don't like surprises, and I do drive the Mass Pike often from near Boston to upstate New York (never having gotten a ticket staying with the traffic flow). Mmmm, so what the heckI went out and got one to see if it would improve the driving "experience."
Turns out with the number of times it signaled an alert on the first trip I used it, I actually would drive slower from a natural reaction to let off the gas and then be cautious not to exceed the prevailing traffic speed. However, most of the alarms were from those roadside electronic message signs alerting drivers both visually and with a radar-band electronic signal (long before you see them) to an upcoming construction zone.
The one actual radar trap on the trip out was over the crest of a low hill without any warning, until we were "painted" by a trooper no more than 100 ft down the road. These folk probably have such locations well staked out so that any detector won't "protect" a speeder with a warning in time to slow down. And with ever more common lasers (using instant on and targeting reflective lights and license plates), even the detector instructions say that the alert won't give you adequate warning to avoid a ticketjust lets you know you've been nailed. The return trip produced the only long range warning of an actual radar trap, which by now was assumed (incorrectly) to be another construction site!
While on the Interstate then, such a detector is not of much use if you just go with the flow. It could be useful in community streets where some governments (such as the notorious Newton, Mass) use unreasonably low speed limits to trap motorists to enhance the municipal coffers. They could at least use such revenue to fix the potholes!
(FYI, in the interest of full disclosure, no tickets there either for me.)