Red light cameras in the U.S. have begun using radar to detect red-light runners and clock speeders. Dubbed non-intrusive vehicle radar detection, it replaces the traditional pavement sensors once used exclusively to trigger the cameras. This means that for the first time, a sensitive radar detector can be a viable red light camera countermeasure.
Aside from being less expensive to install, radar meets the requirements of red light camera customers in Florida and Illinois. Both states forbid the placing of camera-control equipment in close proximity to roadways. In these states cameras must be triggered either by radar or laser. Of the two, radar is less affected by weather and roadway clutter.
Often called 3D radar by the camera industry, some can monitor up to 32 targets simultaneously. Most are single-radar configurations but the latest Redflex systems incorporate dual K-band radars.
To find the best radar detector to meet this new threat, we squared off against an ATS AutoPatrol RLSC-3D red light camera with detectors from Beltronics, Cobra, Escort and Whistler. Street-priced from $149 (Cobra) to $1,999 (Escort Passport 9500ci), as expected, the pricier models performed the best.
The Cobra SPX-7700, for example, spotted the radar at 240 feet, theoretically far enough away for an alert driver to react. But we tested in early afternoon with very light traffic. Our past tests show that as traffic density increases, detection range shrinks, often dramatically. Other vehicles block or deflect the feeble radar beam, chopping range by up to 90 percent.
The best performers, in descending order: Escort Passport 9500ci, Escort RedlineXR, Escort Passport 8500ci Plus, Beltronics GT-7 and Escort Passport Max2, followed by the Whistler CR90 and Cobra SPX-7700.