Radar Love: Last Car To Pass, Here I Go

Radar Love

Radar is an acronym for radio detection and ranging. Doppler radar units, like the one…

Wait a minute. Before we continue, I believe this post calls for some serious driving music. So click on the video below, turn up the volume, step on the gas, and hold on!!


There, that’s better. So, as I was saying, Doppler radar units, like the one in the top photo, emit a continuous frequency that bounces off a moving object, such as a car or truck. The radar unit receives the reflected signal and instantly calculates the target vehicle’s speed. Doppler radar units are capable of determining a violator’s speed while the patrol car is motionmoving radar—and, while it’s stationarystationary radar.

In the moving-radar mode, the radar unit has to determine the police car’s speed before it can calculate the speed of a target car. It does this by sending a signal to the surface of the pavement and to the surrounding landscape. The unit picks up the reflected signals and converts them to miles per hour—the police car’s speed. The patrol car’s speed is displayed as patrol speed on the face of the radar unit (see above photo). During this exchange and calculation of information, the unit is also sending a signal to the target vehicle. The reflected signal is transposed into miles per hour—the target vehicle’s speed. The target vehicle’s speed is displayed as target speed on the face of the unit.

In the stationary mode, the radar unit simply subtracts the difference between the frequency it sent and the one it received. The difference is calculated and shown as miles per hour on the target screen. No patrol speed is shown when the unit is in stationary mode because the police car is not in motion.

Radar facts:

1) Police officers are not required to show the radar unit to a speeder.

2) To be certain the radar unit is operating properly, police officers must check and confirm the machine’s calibration before and after each shift. They do this by striking and holding a tuning fork in front of the radar unit’s antenna. Each tuning fork is designed to simulate a pre-determined speed in miles per hour. Two tuning forks are used when calibrating a radar unit—one fork is pre-set to 65 mph and the other simulates 35 mph.

The radar unit picks up the forks vibrations as speed and displays its calculation in the target speed window. If the calculated speed is the same as the speed generated by the tuning fork, the unit is operating properly.

3) Patrol car speedometers must be calibrated for accuracy on a regular basis.

4) Some police cars are equipped with devices that allow officers to swipe a person’s driver’s license like an ATM card. The machine automatically records the driver’s information and then prints out a traffic summons. The device is also capable of transmitting the data back to the police station and to the court.

5) A traffic stop for speeding is an arrest. Signing the ticket is the same as posting a bond. The driver’s signature on the summons is his/her promise to appear in court. A refusal to sign a traffic summons could send you to jail.

6) Police officers receive special training before operating radar units.


Officers use tuning forks to calibrate Doppler radar units. The gray and black device inside the car window is the rear antenna for the radar unit. The front antenna is pictured in the top photograph. It’s the round object to the left of the radar unit.

Note the patrol speed on the unit in the top photo matches the speed on the car’s speedometer.