If there's a driving enhancement that's clearly misunderstood, it's the good old radar/laser detector. It's a product that's legal to sell in almost every state, save Virginia and the District of Columbia, one that is clearly designed to assist drivers in circumventing the long arm of the law. Or is it?

On one hand, the answer is yes, when properly used, a radar/laser detector can give you advanced warning of an impending speed trap, thus allowing you to possibly avoid a costly ticket. But it can do more than that. If the speed trap is designed in such a way so as to entrap you, such as hiding an officer just beyond an artificially reduced speed limit, where all of a sudden the speed drops from 50 mph to say 25 mph as you approach some small town in the west Texas hinterlands, then the warning is valuable, taking away an advantage some municipality might have to lighten your wallet. As some patrol cars have installed credit card authorization terminals, it's clear to see that revenue generation, not highway safety, is the primary goal of many overzealous law enforcement practices.

Over the years the radar/laser detection arm of electronics has evolved into two distinct categories, inexpensive detectors under $150 sold by mass merchants like Pep Boys, Target and Wal-Mart, which provide a minimal level of warning to most X-, K- and Ka-band threats, and serious devices priced over $200 that can serve up meaningful warnings of speed traps more than two miles away or will pick up low power, reflected signals of vehicles being targeted ahead, sometimes even around blind curves or over hills.

All currently available detectors can pick up line-of-sight laser signals within their 1,000-foot legal targeting distances, but unfortunately lasers travel at the speed of light. If your radar/laser detector responds to a laser signal and you're going faster than the speed threshold, say 10 mph over the limit, you're going to get a citation. That's where laser countermeasures come in, extra devices that literally give your car stealth capabilities when it comes to avoiding police wielding laser guns.

A quick note is in order here. First, blocking, shifting or jamming a police laser signal is legal in all states except for California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Utah. Lasers, unlike radar, are regulated by the Federal Department of Agriculture and there is no national statute on otherwise scrambling a police laser signal. Radar, on the other hand, is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and they take a dim view of anyone operating a radar jammer, as if there was an effective one, it would be an unlicensed radio transmitter (so-called passive radar jammers are 100% ineffective). The FCC hasn't yet issued a license for a personal active radar jammer. Get caught with one and you'll end up with a $10,000 fine and could very well find yourself at one of those federal country clubs that Martha Stewart ended up redecorating.

That being said, we're here to tell you how to effectively guard yourself against careless citations that will lighten your wallet three ways. First there's the initial cost of the citation; second, there are the points on your license that results in higher insurance premiums; and third, there's the waste of time and a valuable Saturday attending traffic school, which incurs another hefty fee. One ticket can easily cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

As mentioned earlier, a good radar/laser detector over $200 should give you adequate warning for almost any X-, K- or Ka-band radar trap. Units from BEL, Escort and Valentine One fall into this category. And while all will warn you when you've been tracked by a laser gun, none by themselves will give you warning to avoid being targeted by laser. You need to neutralize the threat and that's what I'm about to tell you about, mating your detector of choice with a laser shifter/blocker/jammer.

This level of stealthy protection doesn't come cheap; chances are if you're reading european car, you're an enthusiast who likes to drive an upscale European car, and we know that you like to drive at or slightly above the limits (not that we condone driving in an unsafe or illegal way) but with threats around every corner, we know you deserve the best protection.

*First up on the block is the combination of Escort's tried and true Passport 8500 X50 ($300 or $330 with blue display, direct from the manufacturer, www.escortradar.com) with its ZR3 laser shifter ($500 installed, see website for a list of authorized retailer/installers). While the ZR3 can be used as a standalone device, it is designed to work in conjunction with a Passport 8500 X50; that's what that phone jack is for on the side of the unit.

*Next is the BEL 995 Vector ($260 street price, various retailers, www.beltronics.com) which can be combined with the 905 Laser Pro front and rear blocker ($500 installed, see website for a list of authorized retailer/installers). Similar in design to the Escort ZR3 (both BEL and Escort share a common corporate parent) except that it lacks the ability to serve as a standalone unit, the ZR3 and 905 were successful in jamming police laser guns more than 85% of the time in recent tests administered by Speed Measurement Laboratories (www.speedzones.com). The BEL 995 Vector unit in particular, when mated with the 905 Laser Pro, offers the highest level of total protection available for under $1,000 installed; at a combined price of $760, nothing else comes close.

*When it comes to radar/laser detection, no unit has received more honors than Valentine One ($400 from the manufacturer, www.valentine1.com). To its many fans, it's the gold standard of radar/laser detectors, primarily for its combination of excellent sensitivity and its directional arrows. But its excellent laser sensitivity is truly wasted without appropriate laser countermeasures. To fulfill its promise we suggest matching up your Valentine One with a laser jammer from Blinder X-treme, available in two models, the M-20 front-only unit or the M-40 front and rear jammer ($350 and $600 respectively, installation price to be determined by individual dealers, www.usblinder.com). In the Speed Measurement Labs evaluation, the Blinder X-treme jammed a variety of current laser guns 116 times in 120 separate attempts for a 97% success rate. If you want the absolute highest level of protection available, regardless of price, there's only one choice, a Valentine One mated to the Blinder X-treme M-40 front and rear laser jammer. Case closed.

*What if you don't want to advertise the fact that you're running with protection, a visible radar/laser detector on your dash? If so, then a remote radar/laser detector is the solution. And while both BEL and Escort offer fine remote systems where the antenna units are mounted behind the front grille and under/behind the rear fascia, one company, K40, is best known for its remote offerings. And it just so happens, just in time for this report, they've introduced a completely updated version of their remote standard bearer, the new K40 Calibre (MSRP determined by specific vehicle installation, www.k40.com) with remote front and rear radar/laser detection. Using Bluetooth technology, there's no need to run wires from the antenna modules and instead of a dashtop or built-in control panel, the system is operated by a remote less than half the size of a credit card. Ingenious. When coupled with a laser defuser, as K40 calls its jammers, not only does your radar/laser detection system appear invisible to police officers (avoiding harassment if you're stopped), you'll be all but invisible to police laser guns.

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