Is the use of a radar detector morally justifiable?

Isn’t the sole purpose of a radar detector is to avoid speed limit laws?

This is tangentially addressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2290.


I personally don’t believe it can be justified for the simple fact that pretty much everyone who uses one is using it so that they can speed without getting caught. The Catechism clearly says that we should avoid speeding.

[quote=Catechism of the Catholic Church]**2290 **The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

Since I know & work w/ a large number of law enforcement personnel, I’ll side-step (for now) the morality issue and address the reality issue at hand…

Most cops that I know enjoy playing w/ people who have radar detectors. They flash their radar on & off to watch the driver slow then speed up, etc. They’re also less willing to give drivers the benefit of the doubt if they pull someone over w/ a radar detector. So in reality, having a radar detector can actually increase your likelihood of getting pulled over and issued a ticket. Not the purpose, I know, but them’s the breaks!

Morally speaking, I don’t think radar detectors should be used. The only purpose is to warn you of the presence of a radar for enforcing speed limits. That theoretically lets you drive at possibly unsafe speeds - thereby endangering yourself, your passengers, & others. Since speed limit laws are just laws (ie they do not counter natural law) they are meant to be followed. To skirt the issue to me is dishonest.

FWIW I’ve got a lead foot. However, I’m ‘honest’ about my law-breaking b/c I don’t slow down when I see a cop. I know that I deserve to be caught & I won’t argue if I’m pulled over. Morally, still not such a good idea, but not as repugnant as having a radar detector IMO.

Well, there are some people who say that one is morally obliged to follow civil law – I am not as familiar with their arguments as I wish to be but I am not one of these, because I find the theory ridiculous and unworkable. The number of laws in each nation, state, county, and locality is impossible for any person to know, and often have no bearing whatsoever on any morality. To condemn as sin disobedience to civil law is an impossible burden, and immoral to place. This is not to say that people should not generally be law-abiding (there are many reasons one should be this), but instead to say that a specific civil law’s moral force depends on the morality within the actual law as its basis and does not apply otherwise unless agreed to.

So, setting this aside – next we consider whether the speeding is truly reckless and endangering of other people’s lives.

The fact is, one can speed over the speed limit without it being reckless and dangerous – In some streets, the way they are designed and with the level of traffic it is, in some areas – it isn’t, and a driver who is properly prudent can make this judgement call accurately.

I generally believe the current speed limits in place in many areas are made for political rather than safety concerns, and the studies surrounding these concerns often quite tainted – and these laws also are only selectively enforced which causes disrespect for law in general, and so very arguably a moral evil rather than any moral good on these grounds – there are other matters to consider but leave that aside for the moment.

It is simply a fact that one can sometimes speed without it being reckless or endangering.

One using a radar detector to find out if police are checking your speed would be in the circumstances of a safe or extenuating situation, when one is only speeding in a non-reckless fashion, morally acceptable.

If I know the area real well I’ll speed, but only if I’m in a hurry. Otherwise I take my time go about the speed limit.

Depends on the context… in Military situations, possibly yes. But in personal usage, in your car to avoid speed cameras, it is possibly not so.

I trust that everyone understands as an initial matter, that the speed limit is set lower than road design and use would otherwise allow, ie., there’s a built in safety margin. And you need to be more specific, since if there’s no one else on that straight line road in the clear light of day, then maybe using the radar detector to defeat the radar gun isn’t so wrong. On the other hand, there are times where traveling at the posted speed limit is not safe owing to the prevailing conditions. I don’t otherwise bother with the thing, since if you think the law is wrong, then violate the law and accept the consequence. That’s what it means to be a human of moral conviction.

I don’t know … after all, would a person who uses a radar detector always go slower in general without one? I don’t know - some of them might take their chances and maintain faster speeds in general without one, and only slow down at times because of the radar detector forcing them to. If that’s the case then it’s certainly not a sin for them.

I find this sooo interesting. I personally have not used one in years - and it seems I got more tickets when I used it.:eek: My wife strongly discouraged me from using it - but it was more a matter of happenstance that I let it drop.

I was not going to comment but what I found ironic is, the link to the catechism is to para. 2290, even though it starts the page at para. 2284. So I did not remember the para. # and just started reading. 2286 is the one I (mistakenly) thought 1holycatholic was referencing

2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.

Now if you read the rest of 2286, my knee jerk conclusion is not warranted (probably) but my impression was that 1holycatholic wanted to state that the law itself (speed limit enforcement) caused scandal.

You may well laugh…but I spent several years in Germany and the difference most U.S. citizens think of, or so it seems to me, is the lack of speed limit.

In fact there are areas of the Autobahn where there is no speed limit, only a recommended maximum of 130 kph. However, in city limits 130 or even 100 is often enforced. More critically to my way of thinking though: unlike the U.S. you will never get pulled over for speed. They simply have cameras and if you are photographed you get a ticket in the mail.

So now we enter into the whole question of why the difference. It is hard to escape some interesting conclusions - I will only mention five:

  1. The U.S. system, in practice, requires unsafe speed - on the part of the law enforcement personnel! It is safer, and arguably more nearly moral, to have automated systems.

  2. The German system is safer for the law enforcers and those who could otherwise be endangered by the speeding of now not one vehicle but two.

  3. A single blinking camera can slow down a lot more speeders than an official who has to stop you to cite you.

  4. U.S. cops, at least to the non-cop, appear to relish the opportunity, even if short lived, to drive fast.

  5. Many Germans are in fact scandalized by our speed limits, especially on roads so straight and long and monotonous they could never exist in Germany.

That being said, I cannot in good conscience say all this necessarily justifies using radar/lidar detectors/jammers - all of which are, incidentally, prohibited in Germany. There may be some very good justification for using these devices -I can think of at least two- but if I’m honest, I personally used it because it was easier than slowing down.


It’s not always about your own safety, either - I am always being almost hit by people speeding past where I work, because although there is no danger to themselves to travel at that speed, the danger is to anyone who is trying to cross over the roadway from any one of the side streets - if the traffic is speeding, you just can’t get across, or else you will be hit, but if they are travelling at the speed limit, then there is enough space between the cars to be able to get across the road safely.

No, the use of the radar detector is to avoid PUNISHMENT for breaking the speed limit laws. There is a difference. One town over from where we are, they issue tickets for NOT breaking the speed limit, because the police DESPISE being trapped behind cars abiding by the County’s posted limit of 25 mph.

Also, drivers on superhighways regularly disobey the speed limit, with police approval. About 25 years ago, 3 men staged a protest about this by studiously driving only at prceisely 55 mph on a 55 mph highway durung rush hour, right beside each other. In a few minutes, there was a line of about 20,000 cars behind them. State Police arrested the three law abiders.

Do you have a link to a newspaper article about this town’s police force citing people for obeying the law?

It’s illegal in most states to drive in the passing lane except when passing.

I have been behind highway patrol vehicles driving side by side with a patrol vehicle in each lane regulating the speed of traffic on the interstate over three day weekends.

Well, the problem with Request #1 is that I am the attorney going after the police on this, and I don’t want to declare war on them in the press, so I have refused to bring it to the attention of the press.

Re the three drivers, Time Magazine said that they were arrested for something like “Obstructing Traffic.” The law enforcement theory was that ambulances and fire engines and police cars might want to pass their 55 mph “wall.” I’m still glad they did it. I wonder if the real reason for the arrest is that they were cutting into speeding ticket revenues.

Originally Posted by Catechism of the Catholic Church
2290 The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.

So sports racing events, the V8, the red bull challenge, nascar… Should be avoided?

If anyone here who insists that the speed limits are actually set for driver safety can produce proof I will listen.

Traffic laws especially speed limits are for revenue generation and have little to do with safety. Speed limits are easy to enforce with ladar and radar.

If you will notice there are traffic laws that are enforced and those that are not.

Enforce the laws that the left lane hogs are breaking and you will improve safety and eliminate a lot of angry drivers.

If traffic laws were about safety cell phones would be illegal.

If traffic laws were aboutr safety there would not be drivers on the road with 10-12 DUI convictions.

Eddie Mac

Absolutely irrelevant. Last time I checked, we were supposed to submit to those in legitimate authority. WHY such asnd such a law was passed it does not matter. The traffic laws are just. To break them is sin.

Eddie has a point. Speeding tickets are for one purpose and it’s not safety: it’s revenue! I could see making the moral argument that one is justified having a radar detector to protect oneself from government persecution in our increasingly totalitarian society.

This does not mean we don’t have an obligation to note the speed limit and drive carefully and safely, but if the limit is 55, and I’m doing 60 on an empty highway, I certainly don’t consider it a sin to have on a radar detector.

So, where in the Catechism does it say we can reject legitimite authority if it is inconvenient?

I don’t have time at the moment to look for the reference but disobeying unjust laws because the secular authoritarian government uses the law to persecute citizens and violate their constitutional rights is referred to as civil disobedience.

I have had two tickets this year and deserved them both because I did break the traffic laws. One was for speeding and one was for improper lane change.

I was also stopped one for speeding at 4:30 am on my way to Corpus Christi, TX by a deputy sheriff. I had just passed a speed limit sign stating the posted speed limit of 60 mph from 65. Fort Bend Co. is one big revenue generating speed trap. When the deputy stopped me I was actually slowing down and he almost rear ended me because he misjudged my speed as he lit me up.

We were the only cars on the road.

I asked him why he stopped me and he told me speeding. I told him that, respectfully, I was slowing down when he stopped me.

He admitted that he knew that but for me to hand over my papers. He ran me for warrants, walked around my car and peered inside with his flashlights which is allowed under the plain sight search and seizure rulings.

He wrote me a warning.

He was looking for drugs. He was not enforcing traffic safety. If he had asked to search I would have politely refused under the “Get a warrant” guarantee of my 4th amendment rights under the BOR.

Yes, speeding is a sin. It is not grave matter unless you cause physical harm to someone or road rage your way through traffic flashing your lights and tailgating.

The Church is correct in stating that we should obey civil authority but all civil law is not intended for the stated purpose.

Why is it the in a lot of places in Texs, the freeway speed is 65 and the feeder road is 45 or 50, but the exit ramp is 35? Revenue generation for a 300 foot log section of highway. Speeding ticket zone, not traffic safety.

If you examine the traffic laws and also the road sign laws of most states you will see that in a lot of cases the actual sign placement law is violated intentionally. I am currently fighting a speeding ticket I received (one of the two mentioned previously) with an attorney who specializes in trafic offenses specifically because the City of Houston’s traffic enforcement is for revenue generation. I was in fact speeding but I have the option of going to court and pushing for probation in which case it will not go on my record as long as I meet the requirements.

Not to drag this off-topic, but if there is a civil law that requires you to go against teaching you do not have to obey. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is not a driver’s education book and is not a compendium of traffic laws of all 50 states.

I do not, as a rule, drive over the speed limit. I have this amazing capacity for getting caught when I do. I do not like to attract undue attention to myself since I have indeed been incarcerated under trumped up charges by corrupt police and municipal courts twice when I was in the military and thi initiator was a minor traffic offense both times. Neither one was speeding.

I was not as aware of my rights as I am now. You cannot drive without breaking a traffic law. Do you use your turn signals each and every turn and lane change? SInce you are so insistent that traffic offenses are sinful, how virtuous is your driving? The vehicle code does not give leeway for ignorance so you are assumed to know the law so if you break the law the law says you know you are guilty by default.

I stand by my position that for the most part, traffic laws are not for the stated purpose but to bring in revenue for the state.

Eddie Mac

Speed limit laws are NOT a violation of your constituional rights. Civil disobedience mt eye! You are just making excuses. I stand that the laws are just, and knowingly breaking them for convenience sake is unjustifiable. And your argummwnt that it is only venial doesn’t wash either. All sin pains the Lord. “Venial” does not mean “it really doesn’t matter”. All sin matters.

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