Radar and laser jammers represent the next step in electronic warfare between radar detector users and police departments that use radar or LIDAR to measure driver speed. While a radar/LIDAR detector acts as a passive device, merely warning the driver that his or her speed is being measured, a jammer emits a signal that is designed to scramble the readings that the officer receives. Radar jammers are illegal under federal law. Laser jammers are legal in many jurisdictions.
How They Work
Radar jammers of the past were fairly effective at sending out a false signal that caused an error reading on the officer's radar gun. This error message gave the driver time to correct his or her speed before another reading was taken. Today, however, most radar guns are digital and much harder to jam. Additionally, many police radar guns are equipped with devices that are capable of detecting a jammer signal.
Laser jammers, however, are fairly effective. LIDAR technology is still quite new, and has not yet developed a level of sophistication that allows the guns to counteract or detect the effects of a laser jammer. When used in conjunction with a high-tech radar/LIDAR detector, some laser jammers can effectively render a laser speed gun momentarily inoperable.
Radar speed detection technology is regulated by the FCC. Federal law states that the use of a radar jammer is a felony crime. Punishment may include a fine of up to $75,000 along with imprisonment. Many states have also enacted laws prohibiting the use of radar jammers.
Currently, LIDAR speed detection technology falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration. Laser jammers are not federally prohibited, but are banned in many jurisdictions. States that currently prohibit laser jammers include California, Minnesota and Utah.
A special laser-absorbing paint has been marketed in recent years. The theory is that this paint will absorb LIDAR signals, rendering the LIDAR gun useless in detecting the speed of treated cars. The Mythbusters performed preliminary tests of this paint on an episode entitled "Beat the Radar Detector" by applying it to a toy car. However, the team decided that the paint, which is loaded with iron and quite heavy, is so expensive as to be impractical. It is still unknown whether stealth paint is effective, although even if it is, it may be cost-prohibitive.