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Va. bill ending radar detector ban advances

Virginia's ban on radar detectors might be nearing an end.

A bill advanced in the General Assembly on Thursday that would end Virginia's distinction as the last state in which detectors are illegal, the Associated Press reported.

Only one other jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, outlaws the devices that alert motorists of speed traps.

Opponents of Del. Joe T. May's bill to end the ban first enacted in the 1970s say it would encourage drivers to speed up and make roads more deadly.

May (R-Loudoun) chairs the Transportation Committee, which advanced the bill on an 11 to 8 vote.

But May noted that some cars come with the detectors built in, and that detectors themselves slow speeds because drivers brake when the devices go off.

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 4, 2010; 12:12 PM ET
Categories:  Driving , Safety , highways  
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The low margin in committee confirms to me that this will never pass both houses of the General Assembly, especially with the Democrats in control of the Senate. That's not intended to be a slam on Democrats per se; rather, it's a comment on reality--back in 1995, most of the Democrats in Congress were opposed to repealing federal control of speed limits as well.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

So, the General Assembly wants to encourage law breaking? Speeding kills.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 4, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The law needs to go. The only purpose it serves is to enhance enrich speed trap revenue and enrich the insurance companies. For that reason, I've long ignored it. If they have the right to set radar traps, I have the right to know when the traps are active. End of story.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 4, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Again with the "rights" argument. What about responsibilities?

Posted by: jckdoors | February 4, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

How much worse can the roads get?

They should allow radar detectors, but then put automated radars around the state to set them off.

Posted by: member5 | February 4, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Are VA roads any safer than the rest of the country? If not, then the safety argument is out the window.

I don't even want a radar detector (I never had one before moving to VA), but I also think they ought to be legal. There are too many things that are illegal for no reason, and radar detectors are one of them.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | February 4, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

member5: they do have radars all over the state that will set them off. The devices many state DOT's use to calculate spot travel guessed it, radar. They can also count vehicles and determine which lane they are in, providing useful data to us engineers.

I have a very sensitive radar/laser detector (one that is invisible to VSP Radar detector detectors :) ). It beeps whenever I drive past a supermarket with a laser door sensor.

Posted by: thetan | February 4, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I've noticed that in Maryland, many of the overpasses seem to have some sort of device that sets off radar detectors, at least on I-95 between the Beltways. That sort of thing encourages many drivers to ignore detector alerts....unless you have a device with a "bogey counter."

Some newer cars' radar-based cruise control systems will set off radar detectors as well, at least according to Car and Driver.

As far as the points "jckdoors" seems to be trying to make--assuming he's not just out to be a troll--I look at it this way: The motorist has the right to choose to ignore the posted speed limit, regardless of whether he's using a detector. In turn, he has the responsibility to drive in a manner that does not endanger other road users, and he also has the responsibility to man up and pay the fine if he's caught speeding. Don't bother to respond with the argument that "speeding endangers other road users." Unsafe speeding may, true. But the "speed kills" crowd routinely use the term "speeding" to mean "driving faster than 55," and the argument that simply exceeding the arbitrary number on a sign is automatically dangerous is an absurd argument, as has been AMPLY PROVEN by the many studies showing that the fatality rate in most of the USA has dropped since the repeal of the National Maximum Speed Law in 1995 and the subsequent increase in many speed limits. Surely you will not seriously contend that it's inherently dangerous to go 75 mph on the Dulles Greenway, for example. But I'll certainly concede that most drivers need to slow down through the HOT lane construction area on the Beltway, as well as through the work zone west of Telegraph Road. Point being, slogans like "speeding kills" are meaningless, mindless propaganda.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I think part of the problem is that people are looking out for their individual interests, whereas those who set speed limits are looking out for collective interests. If I slow down from 75 to 55, that may reduce my chances of being in a crash from 1 in 1,000,000 to 1 in 3,000,000. Big freakin deal..i'll take my chances on those odds. However those in charge of setting speed limits say "ooo, lookie, a 67% reduction in crashes if we cut speeds from 75 to 55*".

*Note: reducing the speed limit typically has very little impact on actual operating speeds. The above is the rationale for posting lowered speeds, but it typically won't work as well as planned. Thus, arbitrary numbers on a sign.

Posted by: thetan | February 4, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Following on thetan's second paragraph, traffic studies were performed in New York after the speed limit on the Thruway was raised from 55 mph to 65 mph back in 1995. I believe the studies showed that the average speed rose minimally to around 68 mph. What's notable about that is that the increase was not likely due to people going 75 to 80, although certainly lots of folks do that on the Thruway. Rather, the odds are that a lot of drivers who say "I'd like to go 65, but the law is 55" sped up to 65 when the limit was raised, thus increasing the average speed.

Almost all data I've ever seen have shown that the majority of drivers will drive at the speed they consider reasonable regardless of the number on the sign. The outliers--the people who insist on trying to go much faster than everyone else whilst weaving in and out and tailgating, or the stereotypical Grandpa crawling along at 45 mph with his turn indicator flashing--are the true hazards.

To return to the original topic of radar detectors, I think the detector ban is a silly law that ought to be repealed, although I also think that there are quite a few naive drivers who will put blind faith in a detector and a lot of other drivers who don't know how best to take advantage of a detector. A lot of drivers with detectors will ignore the warning if they get a quick one or two beeps and then silence, but that's exactly when you need to be concerned about instant-on radar. As Mike Valentine says, EVERY alert is a threat until you have reason to know otherwise.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

The law needs to go. The only purpose it serves is to enhance enrich speed trap revenue and enrich the insurance companies. For that reason, I've long ignored it. If they have the right to set radar traps, I have the right to know when the traps are active. End of story.
Posted by: ceefer66
Just curious where in the Constitution I can find the right you speak of? Do you also have the right to know when and where undercover cops are working?

Posted by: pjjacobs | February 4, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Just put a GPS, data base and a recorder in every car and let it phone in every month to report how many times the car was over the speed limit or ran a stop sign or even did not stop for a red light. Then sens a bill every month to the crooks. Let them support our roads and highways.

No need for radar or cameras. They don't like that. Let their cars rat them out.

Posted by: gary4books | February 4, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

"Speeding kills." Not really. The failure to maintain control of your vehicle kills, which is driver error. Driving below the speed limit can also "kill" by surprising an inattentive driver who otherwise is obeying the speed limit - again it is not the speed, it is driver error. The real danger is the aggressive driver: unsafe lane changes, tailgating, driving on the shoulder or median lanes, and using emergency turn-arounds for their own convenience. But these violations require actual work i.e. patrolling. It is much easier to lie in wait and pick off speeders with radar while surfing the internet and chatting on the mobile.

Posted by: maus92 | February 4, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

"Just curious where in the Constitution I can find the right you speak of?"

You have it backwards. Your rights are not limited to those specifically enumerated in the Constitution. That's how civil-law countries work, whereas the US is a common-law country.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 4, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

When a speed study is conducted, the difference between the posted speed limit and the 85th percentile speed is the most important factor to consider when setting the speed limit. If there is a big difference, something is wrong. In most cases, the 85th percentile speed should be the speed limit. Only problem is that on the roads where it matters the most (high speed freeways), you run up against statutory maximums, and those often have the most improperly set limits as a result.

Posted by: thetan | February 5, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Virginia's Radar detector ban should be a very simple argument of entrapment but they sold it to the public under the guys of "safety". The Commonwealth of Virginia is conducting surveillance on its citizens behavior through the use of Radar guns. It should be the rite of every citizen to know when the government is conducting surveillance in real time. Any law designed to prevent private citizens from detecting government surveillance is an attack on our civil liberties. If you don't think so then look it up. The government defends itself from this accusation by posting signs saying "Speed is monitored by Radar". In essence, the government's stand is "As citizens, you should assume the government is always conducting surveillance on you and the government forbids you to discover when or from where this surveillance is occurring until after the fact". In reality this law is about money plain and simple. Modern vehicles and there drivers are capable of safely operating at much higher speeds than the law allows therefor only a fool would believe this law has anything to do with safety. However, if you believe this law is really about safety, ask yourself a simple question. As motorists, what do we all do when we see a police vehicle? The answer is simple. We all check our speed and slow down as necessary. The police know this because they see it every day. So, if the police are so interested in safety why do they drive so many unmarked cars on Virginia highways? Why do they hide marked cars behind trees, over rises in the road, or behind bushes when setting up speed traps? The answer is simple. Nobody will speed if they see the police and if nobody speeds the government can't collect money. Conspicuous police presence controls speed and Radar detectors can detect there presence from over a mile away. Virginia's Radar detector ban is an ongoing attack on our civil liberties designed to generate revenue. It has no impact on public safety and should be repealed.

Posted by: mecaveman | February 10, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

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