Note: discontinued models
Municipalities that deploy red light cameras find mobile speed cameras (photo radar vans) equally irresistible. Most sign up for the package deal. (And why not? The city pays for nothing except a PR campaign to sell the program and a rigged public opinion poll to celebrate its success, plus a beefed-up court system. A contractor handles everything else and the two split the take.)
One defense is the red light camera detector, a stand-alone device with GPS that warns when you approach a fixed camera, either a red light or speed camera. Ranging in price from $99 to $299, these offer only a partial solution since they don't detect radar and can't protect against photo radar. For that, you'll need a radar detector with superior sensitivity on K- and Ka-band, the frequencies used by photo radar (speed vans) worldwide.
Early this year Cobra added two more to its lineup and, too late to be included here, another pair at summer's end. (Click on a model name to see our recent review and test of it.) Prices are attractively lower than the BEL and Escorts and range from the XRS 9845 ($230 suggested retail, about $140 street price) and the XRS 9945 ($150) to the XRS 9960G ($290) and XRS R10G at $300 (street).
The Cobra XRS 9945 and XRS 9845 are GPS-capable but don't include the optional ($129) GPS Locator (GPSL) module. This little gadget looks like a fat USB travel drive and incorporates a GPS antenna and a miniature hard drive. It's plugged into a mini USB port in the side of the radar detector. That turns it into red light camera detector using Cobra's Aura Database of camera locations.
All of these new Cobra detectors were tested at our Arizona desert sites and as a group, turned in excellent scores. Most noteworthy is their improved Ka-band sensitivity, the best we've seen from Cobra.
First stop for the Cobra GPS-enabled radar detectors was the Straightaway Test Site, by far the easier of our two tests. A trio of straightaways is linked by plunging S-curves where the rural highway drops down for low-water crossings. These sections are roughly parallel and while the radar and detector are offset by about half a mile at the extremeties of the course, the two are still pointed roughly at one another.
The second test is far tougher. Instead of looking down the throat of the radar guns, the detectors are trying to spot them coming from below and off to the side. Radar beam alignment is more toward the North Star than the roadway at this location, posing an enormous challenge to a detector. That's why detection range drops from up to 5.1 miles to as little as 1,500 feet. That's enough warning, but only for drivers who are paying attention.