Are Police Scanners or CB Radios Useful?
Uniden BCT-10 and BCT-12
[Promotional Text] Uniden BCT12 Highway Information System. This is the worlds smallest Mobile Highway information system. Features: Highway Patrol alert with 9 level strength meter. Highway patrol frequency coverage. Police frequency coverage. Pre-Programmed scanner covers all 50 states plus Canada. 800 Mhz band coverage. Instant Weather. Built in Speaker. Audio Mute Button. External speaker jack. Channel Lockout. Memory backup. Channel & Frequency Hold key. Windsheild mountable. DOT and New media coverage. The BearTracker is a sophisticated highway alarm system that responds to radio waves emitted from special secondary transmitters installed on most highway patrol vehicles across the US. The BCT-12 alarm system informs you both visually and audibly when activity is detected. It also determines the strength of those signals to inform you of the presence and distance of the Highway patrol vehicles even if they’re not using Radar.
[RK] I’ve used a scanner on a couple of long trips. I can say from experience that without a doubt it was a worthwhile purchase. The scanner I have is the Uniden BCT-10 Highway Information Scanner. It has preprogrammed frequencies for police and highway patrol for all 50 states and you can add any frequency you want (within the capabilities of the scanner) including any CB channels.
I also travel with a Valentine and a SSB-CB radio and download all pertinent info for the states I will be traveling in from http://www.speedtrap.com. I haven’t found the CB to be that useful. It’s kind of a kick to hear the chatter from the truckers as you scream by them and to hear their surpass when you respond to their banter. Unfortunately the one circumstance I wasn’t prepared for, or wasn’t vigilant enough, was a CHP entering on a onramp on 101 on our way to Laguna Seca a couple of weeks ago. He claimed to be doing 130 trying to catch up with us, when he called ahead to for help (that’s when the scanner picked him up) and that was when we figured out we were had. He wrote up my buddy Pete a rather nasty ticket, but did us a favor by not throwing us into jail.
My bottom line is that the Valentine and Scanner (Uniden now has a BCT-12, check out their website www.uniden.com) are required anytime I travel cross-country.
[GM] I own and use a Uniden Beartracker unit that sits inside the glovebox and uses an external antenna (I used a Y adapter with the standard NSX trunk antenna). You select the state you are driving in and it scans its database of police frequencies to warn you of police activity. All Beartrackers offer the feature of listening for the weak officer-to-car radio used by all U.S. police forces and sounding a special alarm when it hears this frequency . The theory is that if an officer is outside his car and transmitting he is probably engaged in traffic monitoring and you may benefit from this warning. As these personal radios are low powered you are within approx. 3 miles of an officer if you can receive his signal.
Having said all that I would use this type of scanner for notice of aircraft enforcement. It does not seem very useful for other stuff. Sure you get notice of police activity within a 3 mile radius but it’s difficult to use that information effectively.
Also my older unit has a bad feature – the alert light and A LOUD BEEPER go off for the first 7-8 seconds of each transmission identified by the personal radios the police use. That makes them useless for actually hearing these transmissions as most are 8-10 seconds only. Dumb.
A speed trap being run from the air has very distinctive chatter like: "White car, inner lane, roll now!!" "Red van, outer lane, wait, wait, wait, roll now!!" This is the pilot trying to synchronize the ground team with the offending vehicle.
[SFI] The nice thing about the beartracker scanner when compared to a CB is that the alarm [Light and Beeping] is active with the volume OFF on the scanner. Honestly, I would rather listen to music when driving than CB or Police chatter. The combo of a Valentine 1 with a BearTracker is, IMO, optimal for protection without having to listen to all that banal chatter.
[KS] The BCT-12 scanner is available for $149.95 from Bill’s 2-Way. For more info, see http://www.bills2way.com/equip/scanners.html
[GM – 99/8/3] These units can also listen in on the air-to-ground traffic that accompanies a plane measuring your speed. In Ohio these "speed traps" are legal and are often found on the Interstate. It is very expensive to put up a plane so they use many officers on the ground to chase down speeders. The plane feeds the ground the information they need to locate the proper car. You will hear comments like: "red van, inner lane, wait, wait, roll now" or "green sportscar, outer lane, roll! roll!" as the plane tries to synchronize the ground crew. This has saved me more than once. And of course these traps are only run in good flying weather with little wind and clear skies.
[HMI – 99/8/7] I have my Bear Tracker mounted vertically lateral to my right knee, with the display panel angled up to face me. Works very nicely — don’t lose the glove box, no need for an extra speaker, supports the knee, can turn it off quickly and easily, hidden by knee from the officer on the left, by center console from the officer on the right. (Theoretically, of course.)
Expertly figured out and installed by Don Lam of Hilltop Autoservice (ex GG Acura) at 650 991 8838. Done a year ago and no problems since.
[KP] I recently purchased a CB for our new Land Cruiser and use it frequently when we take vacations pulling the boat. IMO, a CB is the BEST tool for avoiding tickets if you are taking a route that is popular with truck drivers. The truck drivers are continually updating each other (and you, if you’re listening!) with the whereabouts of "smokies".. Our family has taken several trips from socal to Lake Mojave (near Laughlin) and the chatter on the CB radio is frequently very entertaining. On this particular route, the CB is an invaluable tool. Towing my boat, the view behind me is largely obstructed so I pretty much rely ENTIRELY on the CB to avoid speeding tickets. It works.
IMO, there’s only one CB to get. It is the brand new Cobra 75 WX ST. It is the latest in a generation of CB’s in which all of the controls are in the microphone. It has a long coiled cord that connects to a small box (about 1" x 2") that can be mounted under your seat. You connect the antenna and power to this small concealed box. When you’re ready for a trip, just attach the all-in-one microphone and you’re done! After the trip, just unscrew the coiled mic cord and you’re done. Also, you can buy one of these little 1×2" antenna/pwr boxes for each car. I think they reatil for $25. As for the radio itself, you can buy it from several sources. Prices on the internet are about $100. Again, I highly recommend this unit.
OK, so now the hard part. What do you do about an antenna for the NSX? For a CB, the quality of the antenna is more important than the radio itself. (In my L/C, I use a $100 magnetic antenna and the performance with the little Cobra is simply unbelievable.)
I’ve not thought about an antenna for the NSX but I admit, the idea is very intriguing. I think that there is really about three choices.
1. You could get a small rubber-ducky type of antenna that you clip or suction cup onto your passenger window. This is the easiet approach but it is the least effective antenna.
2. There’s a possibility that you could replace you stock electric antenna with an am-fm-cb unit. This might me a pretty tricky proposition and could require some fabrication.
3. Finally, there might be a way to install a small horizontal bracket at one of the rear corners of the car. The bracket could accomodate the mounting of a small whip antenna.
[KS] I promised to report on the use of Citizen’s Band (CB) radio on my just-completed cross-country trip. This is that report. While this information is not directly related to the NSX, it can be useful for those who wish to use CB in their NSX.
I purchased the Cobra 75 WX ST CB recommended here by Kendall Pond. This CB is designed primarily to be used in a permanent in-car installation, with its small electronics box mounted in a location such as under the seatand the wiring permanently connected to the car’s electrical system. The hand-held unit which plugs into this box contains the microphone, speaker, and all controls and displays. Because I want the CB to be easily moved from one vehicle to another, it was necessary for me to purchase a separate plug for the cigarette lighter, to which I then connected the wires coming from the small electronics box.
The strength of the CB depends heavily on the kind of antenna used. I decided to use a window-mounted antenna because of its ease of installation and removal. This antenna consists of a long thin metal whip, connected to an antenna base which includes a metal foldover base piece, lined with cork, which fits on the top edge of the window. Holding the base over the window, you close the window, and voila! your antenna is installed. I bought this antenna from my local Radio Shack (item number 21-983, I think it was around $30).
I used this CB for long stretches in driving 1,000 miles from Chicago to Boston. I had been told that an antenna like this would be limited in transmission range but should receive signals adequately, and this turned out to be true. I tried transmitting a few times, but only once did I receive a direct response to my transmissions. (Note that I was driving a minivan, so the added height would be expected to increase transmission range compared to the NSX.) I was able to listen to other vehicles easily for most of the way.
I found that the CB provided some useful information, but that it also exacted a penalty in user friendliness. I encountered several instances where the local authorities were monitoring highway traffic. In each instance, I heard about it immediately before I arrived at the site of this activity, with sufficient time (but just barely) to make adjustments in my driving. Therefore I found it useful. With a better antenna (and more desire on my part to transmit and pay closer attention to the CB chatter), I’m sure the warnings would have given me more advance notice. However, the use of a CB requires that substantial attention to the contents of the transmissions from others. Thus it can conflict with any enjoyment of conversation with passengers or other vehicles using NSX two-way radios, listening to music, etc. In this way it is very different from a radar detector, which is silent most of the time outside of populated areas. This is a significant disadvantage of using CB.
Overall, I would say that a CB is a useful tool for making time on a cross-country drive. However, it does have the limitations noted above, so I would recommend it only for those for whom speed and advance warning is more important than the enjoyment of the ride.
You can read more about this model at Cobra’s website at http://www.cobraelec.com/new/75wx.html
Two Internet-advertised sources where you can purchase it are for $94.88 from Bill’s 2-Way in California (see http://www.bills2way.com/equip/CBradio.html or call 888-710-4094) and for $94.95 from JCRE International in Colorado (see http://jcre.com/cobra.htm or call 800-568-7752). I have no personal experience with either of these suppliers.
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