Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Need For Speed

The Royal Father likes to drive fast. And he has found a way to avoid getting pulled over for speeding more than 98 percent of the time while on vacation with us by using that old foe of lawmen: radar detectors.

The first one was a Super Snooper, made by Autotronics. It sat in a special mount on the dashboard of our Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. When the radar beam hit, a red light on top would flash "CHECK SPEED."

Dad later moved up to the famous FuzzBuster series. We had an Elite model, one that had a an ear-piercing alarm -- and no volume control. The alarm was either silent or hysterical, accompanied by an orange warning light.

My favorite, though, was the Escort from Cincinnati Microwave. It had a nice sleek look, advanced anti-falsing circuitry, and a meter to show the radar's signal strength. Best of all, it worked like a geiger counter. It would beep once when an outlying wave of radar hit, then faster as you got closer to law enforcement. The Escort never failed us.

Most states will let you use a radar detector legally. In my family vacation days, we pressed our luck when going through Virginia and Connecticut. The latter state erected large blue signs reading: "Use of radar detectors is illegal in Connecticut." Not anymore. Lawmakers repealed the ban in 1992. As for Virginia, the Royal Father asked a quick question of a driver while passing through.

"Oh, you better hide those, man!"

He didn't. We didn't get caught.

Only one time has the radar detector failed us when we were on the road. That was in 1980's New England, when a Massachusetts trooper pulled us over. I'm not sure if we even had the Fuzzbuster on. The trooper had mercy on us, deciding to treat Dad like a New England citizen rather than making it into a court case because we were from out of town.

"That trooper had a bad radar gun," I remember the Royal Father saying after we were on our way again. "I wasn't going that fast."

We've come a long way since then. Speed guns have gone to lasers, in addition to microwaves, and radar detectors have now entered the smartphone age.

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