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Department of Transportation Radar Tests

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
February 1980, DOT HS-805 254
Contents -- Test Summary | Recommendations
Test Summary

Seven radar units, six different models, from four different manufacturers were tested for problems. The study listed several recommendations based on problems encountered with some of the radars in the test. All the radar units tested operate at X band, two test models were handheld, five test models were multi-piece radars.

Test Radars
Manufacturer Model* Test Radar
CMI (handheld) Speedgun 6 D
CMI (handheld) Speedgun 8 E
Decatur Electronics MV-715 C
Kustom Signals MR-7 G
Kustom Signals MR-9 A
M.P.H. Industries K-55 B and F

* From unofficial sources.

The test data does not identify the exact radar model used but instead categorizes the radar units as A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The test revealed several operational and multiple interference problems.

Radar Problems
Radars Affected Percent Problem
A B C - - F G 100% Panning Error (All 2-piece units)
A B C D E F 86% Patrol Speed Shadowing (moving mode)
A B D E F G 86% Internal 100 watt Mobile Radio
A B C D F G 86% Internal CB Radio Transmissions
B C D E F 71% Scanning Error
A B E F G 71% Internal 2 watt Hand-held Radio
B C D E 57% Internal AC and Heater Fan / Motor
B D F 43% Speed Bumping or Batching (moving mode)
A B F 43% External Police Radios 20-30 feet distance
C D 29% Ignition and Alternator
F 14% External CB Transmissions
F 14% Transmit out of band (+900 kHz)
6 9 6 7 5 10 4 Totals

Radars D and E (CMI Speedgun 7 and 8) were hand held, panning error does not apply.

Test radar F had the most problems (10), test radar B had the second most problems (9), both are believed to be the same model, M.P.H. Industries K-55.

Tuning Forks
Forty two percent, 5 out of 12, tuning forks tested were mislabeled or mis-calibrated. Four were low by 1 mph, one was high by 1 mph.

Moving Mode Abnormalities
Radar B traveling 40 mph - tracked 37 mph Pinto
- lost track several seconds
- tracked car well behind Pinto
Radar D traveling 41 mph - tracked 57 mph truck well behind 35 mph Pinto
- eventually picked up Pinto
Radar G traveling 41 mph - tracked 57 mph truck 100 yards behind 33 mph Pinto

Performance Variations
Beamwidth: 13.3° - 24.8°
Effective Radiated Power (ERP): 26.3 - 134 milliwatts
Low Voltage Condition: 6 - 11.9 Vdc
Maximum Detection Range: 105 feet - 1.1 miles
86 moving mode test conducted
3 different target vehicles; Two stationary mode test with one radar and one target vehicle, the Pinto.

Beamwidth, ERP, and Low Voltage Summary
Radar A B C D E F G medium average
Beamwidth 13.3° 20.4° 17.5° 18.8° 18.6° 24.6° 14.3° 18.6° 18.2°
ERP (milliwatts) 85 134 120 34.25 39.2 26.3 56 56 71
Low Voltage (volts) 11.9 6.0 7.6 10.2 10.3 6.6 11.9 10.2 9.2

Test Data
Radar A - Kustom MR-9
Radar B - MPH K-55
Radar C - Decatur MV-715
Radar D - CMI Speedgun 6
Radar E - CMI Speedgun 8
Radar F - MPH K-55
Radar G - Kustom MR-7


Based on the test results the report suggested several recommendations as summarized below.

- Adopt radar standards and require police agencies to follow standards,
- Develop policy guidelines for radar maintenance, testing, and calibration,
- Keep adequate maintenance and calibration records,
- Establish minimum training standards,
- Develop State-level certification (renew every 1 to 3 years),
- Develop radar workshops and seminars for traffic adjudication personnel,
- Establish State-level policy/procedural guidelines to ensure proper use.

NHTSA recommended standards based on the 1980 test may be found under the title: Performance Standards for Speed Measuring Devices, United States Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Register, Volume 46, Number 5, January 8, 1981. Below is a list of some of the recommended specifications.

X Band
K Band
10.525 ± 25 MHz
24.150 ± 100 MHz
X Band
K Band
Minimum Detection Range 500 feet
Stationary Mode
Moving Mode
± 1 mph
± 2 mph
Tuning Fork Tolerance 0.5 %

Password section -- Police Traffic Radar ISSUE PAPER
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