Legends abound about police radar guns picking up mailboxes going 50 miles per hour. But does that really happen? It might, if the officer using the gun isn’t properly trained on signal interference.
“I can point a radar detector directly at my air conditioner in my car and get a reading” from the fan, said Kevin Morrison, a public-safety product specialist with Decatur Electronics, the country’s oldest maker of radar guns.
“Weather can cut down on the radar’s range because rain obscures some of the radar signal,” Morrison said. As a result, you probably won’t encounter many speed traps in a downpour.
As mentioned, seemingly inanimate objects, such as your car’s fan, can screw up the machine, too.
But police are (or should be) trained to watch out for such problems. The easiest way to check for interference is by listening to the high-pitched whistling sound the radar gun makes, Morrison said. If the sound, known as an “audio Doppler tone,” rises and falls smoothly, there’s no interference. “If it’s broken and raspy, it’s not a clear return. It’s not a good signal coming in,” he said. The officer should be able to testify in court about the clarity of the gun’s sound.
But how does he or she know that you’re the one speeding, as opposed to the car in front of you or next to you? Morrison said this is another reason why the officer must see you speeding, as the gun, even when pointed in your direction, may be registering someone else’s speed.
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