Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Beltronics Vector 940 Radar Detector - I Should Have Used It Yesterday

I bought the Beltronics Vector V940 Radar Detector about 2 years ago to replace an old, beat-up Cobra, and now I have a brand new speeding ticket. But the ticket is not the BEL's fault, but mine. You see, this is my second speeding ticket in the 14 years of driving and (coincidence or not?) both times were when I either left the detector at home or was driving someone else's car.

My first speeding ticket happened about 6 years ago, when I left my Cobra at home and was running late to catch a train to work. 24 mph over the speed limit is not cheap. Yesterday, I was driving my wife's car while having left the BEL 940 in my 2004 Infiniti G35This time it will be 17 mph over the speed limit.

One conclusion from all this is rather obvious. I drive about 80 percent of time with a radar detector. So, although it is not a scientific proof, having a radar detector somehow equals to no speeding tickets, whereas lack thereof equals several hundred dollars remitted to the state coffers and about 6 hours of online traffic school. For the record, the BEL 940 cost me about $150 and I installed it and adjusted its settings in minutes.


The Vector 940 turns itself on and off when the car is started/turned off. It turns on fast and with minimum of fuss (my old Cobra would go berserk with sounds when turned on). The mounting bracket is very sturdy and buttons have a good tactile feel. The coiled cord is pretty long and has a sturdy telephone-like connector on the end that connects to the detector.

Is Speeding Evil?

Now, a quick disclaimer: I normally don't go over 10-15 miles over the speed limit. But sometimes the speed limits are just ridiculous. I drove 130 mph for hours on end in Germany, but for some reason in the US I have to crawl on the empty freeway just because government thinks that I am going to loose control at anything over 70. If the DMV demanded real training and real test of driving skills (like they do in Germany) we would have lower accident rates, fatalities and insurance rates. But instead they give anyone who can breathe a license and then enforce ridiculously low speed limits. Ok, I am done venting.

BEL 940

The BEL 940 is not the best radar detector out there. It doesn't have fancy arrows that point where the radar is, nor has it an indicator of the number of "threats" (unlike the expensive Valentine One). It cannot claim the best range of detection (from test results I found online), but it is among the best, and may be the best in this respect in its price range.

The BEL 940 detects all radar frequencies in the US: X, K and Super Wideband Ka bands. It also detects laser (front and rear, provided there is a direct view of the laser through the front or rear glass), SWS and provides notifications specific to each band of detection. The notifications are a tone (specific to the band), name of the band displayed on the unit, along with the signal strength in bars, followed by a voice prompt, e.g. "Ka Band!".

The unit features Shadow II Technology, which makes it undetectable by VG-2 radar detector detection (useful where the radar detector use is illegal). We are free to use radar detectors here in California though.

The tones, displayed information and the voice prompts are very intuitive and immediately attract attention (which is important). What is even more important is this BEL's range. I like in LA, where there are a lot of false alarms, especially in X and K bands. Since I mostly drive on same streets, I know the locations of false alarms, numerous as they may be. So when the radar detector starts making noises where I know it shouldn't I slow down and usually rightfully so. 

I mention noises and not the display for two reasons. The first reason is the sounds attract your attention fast and you immediately need to concentrate your attention on slowing down. The second reason is more profound. I notice that in hot weather the detector becomes very hot, almost impossible to touch for any period of time over a second. I don't know if this is the cause or something else, but the screen becomes progressively dimmer and then stops showing anything altogether. The detector still works though, but in "sound-only" mode. Defect or not? I might never know since I am OK with this mode of operation.

So what about the range? I use the detector in the "City" mode, where its detection of some bands is lowered to reduce false alarms. Still, it detects police cruisers that use always-on radars from about half a mile away in the city. And its most useful time is when driving on freeways, where it detects them more than a mile away. There were quite a few cases when it detected them, I slowed down and avoided a ticket.

Obviously, its best efficiency is achieved with an always-on radars. The instant-on radars that are pointed on the car and emit a short burst can be detected, when used on another car in front of you. And same applies to lasers, although those are very difficult to detect. So what does this all mean? The radar detector is not a panacea. It is a good helper and works sometimes. It probably pays for itself in constant use; at least I got no tickets 80% of driving time while using it and got a couple 20% of driving time while not using it. But you also have to be vigilant and watch for spots where a police officer with an instant-on radar or laser might be hiding.

Pros: Low price, sturdy construction, features, good detection, voice prompts.
Cons: Gets hot, display gets dim/turns off when hot, I should have used it.


As for this Beltronics Vector V940 Radar Detector , it features sturdy construction, excellent mounting bracket with powerful, yet translucent suction cups, coiled soft power cord, appealing design, good display, voice prompts and controls. It also has good range of detection and is cheaper than one speeding ticket. But there are aforementioned issues. It gets very hot. Its display gets dimmer and dimmer and then stops working altogether (although that might be my particular unit's defect). Will I keep using it? Absolutely. Should you get one? I recommend it.

As for me, I am getting ready to attend a traffic school.

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