We Go to Battle to
Protect Your Freedom

Free Case Consultation

Are Radar Detectors Legal in North Carolina?

Speeding is a dangerous activity in a motor vehicle, and doing so can lead to traffic accidents and serious injuries. Law enforcement patrol and pull over offending drivers, but they do not rely solely on sight to determine speeding. Traffic radar helps determine how fast a vehicle is going and how far above the speed limit a speeding driver is going.

To avoid traffic radar, many drivers use radar detectors to see when they are approaching a traffic radar. When you know where a traffic radar is, it becomes easy to adjust your speed and avoid a speeding ticket. However, since such a device allows for breaking speed limits outside of traffic radar areas, it may seem like the legality of radar detectors may be questionable.

How Traffic Radars and Radar Detectors Work

Traffic radar works on the principle of the Doppler effect. Radars use a beam of light to detect speed. This light is invisible to the naked eye, but it works very much the same as any other beam of light in that it travels in a straight line. When it hits your car, the timing and strength of the light reflected back to the radar gun allow it to track your speed.

The effectiveness of traffic radar equipment depends on its quality. The beam of light cannot distinguish one car from another, and an operator needs to determine which car is speeding if multiple vehicles are on the scene. In some cases, this can lead to inaccurate traffic tickets.

However, radar guns do still catch speeders, which paved the way for radar detectors. Since a traffic radar utilizes a beam of light, the light scatters as it passes through dust and moisture in the air. This scattering is detectable, and radar detectors can recognize the light signals before they touch your vehicle, allowing for adjustments to safer speeds to avoid tickets.

Are Radar Detectors Legal?

North Carolina does not have a law against simple radar detectors. Drivers may have a radar detector in their vehicle and use it without any legal consequences, so long as you are not using one while on or driving through a military base. However, if an officer pulls you over for any reason and recognizes that you have a radar detector, he or she may be inclined to pursue maximum penalties.

Other radar technologies have strict regulations against their use. Radar jammers and deflectors use the same technology as radar detectors but these devices also work to jam a traffic radar signal or deflect it from your vehicle. If you use one, you will be facing an FCC fine.

How Effective Are Radar Detectors?

Radar detectors can be a reliable way of recognizing when you’re approaching a traffic radar. However, many other devices use similar signals, which a radar detector will also pick up. False signals are common, even with more reliable detectors.

Law enforcement members are also aware of radar detectors, and they have taken precautions against them. Many traffic radars are instant-on/pulse radars, so they only turn on when a target is in range and with no warning on a radar detector. If you are in traffic, you may be able to see when an instant-on/pulse traffic radar goes off for cars ahead of you, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to react in time. Also in use are lidar detectors which use infrared light and are harder for devices to detect.

Ultimately, a radar detector does not ensure that an officer will not pull you over for speeding or that traffic radar will not catch you at high speeds. Instead of looking for ways to avoid traffic tickets, it is best to always follow traffic laws. If you need additional information regarding using radar detectors in North Carolina or are in need of legal representation following a speeding ticket, speak with an experienced Raleigh traffic ticket lawyer.