Ohio Auto Insurance: Are radar detectors legal?

By Insurance.com Posted : 02/19/2007

If you get a ticket for speeding, not only do you pay a fine, but your insurance also goes up, so it's no surprise that avoiding speeding tickets is big business in the United States. The technology in this field has come a long way since the "Fuzzbusters" of the 1970s. Motorists today will find a wide selection of radar detectors, laser detectors, scanners, jammers, and stealth coatings designed to elude law enforcement officials. Recent estimates suggest that over 10 percent of all drivers employ some sort of "radar-busting" technology on our nation's highways.

Are "radar busters" like these legal? The answer in Ohio depends on the type of technology you use and how you use it.

Radar & Laser Jammers
It is a felony under federal law to jam or attempt to jam police radar signals. Many states also criminalize the mere possession of a radar jammer, so it is best to avoid such products altogether.

Laser jammers, on the other hand, are not banned by either federal or New York law at this time. However, check all local laws before trying a laser jammer, since their use, sale, and possession are banned entirely in several states (CA, CO, IL, MN, UT, and VA).

Police Scanners
The use of police scanners in Ohio is currently legal for all purposes.

Stealth Coatings
To date, neither Ohio nor any other state has banned the use of stealth coatings to impair the ability of police LIDAR laser guns ("Light Detection and Ranging") to obtain an accurate speed reading of a vehicle. Stealth coatings first gained notoriety due to their defense applications (such as with the Stealth Bomber). Their efficacy on the roadways, however, remains to be seen -- "although some testers claim that stealth coatings can reduce laser gun sensitivity by over 60 percent (see the RadarBusters Stealth Coating tests).

Radar & Lidar Detectors
Under federal law, the use of radar and lidar detectors is illegal in all commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds (see an overview of radar and laser detector laws). For all other purposes, radar and lidar detectors are legal in Ohio.

In light of the obvious conflict between speeding laws and radar detector use, law enforcement officials, safety advocates, and insurance companies continue to lobby legislators nationwide to ban the use of radar and laser detectors altogether. Thus far, they have only been successful in banning radar detector use in Virginia, Washington D.C., and on U.S. military bases.

Some speculate that one of the reasons that legislatures have been loathe to ban consumer use of radar detectors is that such bans could expose the inaccuracy of radar and laser-based speed detection systems. Independent studies have shown that radar and laser guns are susceptible to technical and operator error, leading some radar detection advocates to claim that over 25% of all radar-based speeding tickets are generated in error (see Radar and Laser Gun Mistakes). Some of the more common reasons for errors include:

  • Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) from sources such as radios, garage door openers, and police radar
  • Cosine errors generated by an inappropriate angle of the gun to the target
  • Mechanical errors caused by guns overheating or being out of alignment

Regardless of the accuracy of speed detection systems or the legality of radar detectors, one fact remains crystal clear in Ohio-"speeding is against the law. Accordingly, the best advice is for Ohio drivers to rely on their common sense, rather than technology, when assessing the proper speed for the prevailing road conditions. For more information on safe driving in Ohio, please visit the Ohio BMV site. If you're interested in learning more about radar detectors, please visit the RadarBusters.com Buyer's Guide.

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