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Ask a Trooper: Tractor lighting rules

September 26, 2014
By Trooper Vince Kurtz - Iowa State Patrol Safety Education , Estherville News

Q: Are radar detectors and fuzz busters illegal in Iowa?

A: One of the most popular questions asked of troopers at lunch has always been, 'How fast can I go without being stopped?' This question is closely linked to our topic of the day. Those that purchase and operate radar detectors have just gone a step further than asking the question.

We should first define 'radar detector' and 'fuzz buster' before getting into the law. A radar detector is a device designed to detect the use of radar speed measuring devices. These devices will alert the operator when a radar speed measuring unit is activated within a certain distance from the detector. A fuzz buster is a device that is designed to not only detect radar speed measuring devices, but disrupt them. These devices are also known as 'radar jamming devices'.

This difference plays into the legality of radar detectors and fuzz busters. Radar detectors in non-commercial vehicles are legal in Iowa, but each state has different regulations regarding these units (Minnesota has outlawed the use of radar detectors in all vehicles). Commercial vehicles are prohibited from using radar detectors nationwide.

Due to their ability to disrupt police radar units, fuzz busters are illegal in Iowa. Those that operate fuzz busters are subject to a fine of $195 and forfeiture of the unit (321.232 and chapter 809 Iowa Code).

A sidebar to this discussion relates to the effectiveness of radar detectors and the mindset of their operators. Most radar detectors are effective in alerting when radar is in use, but only after law enforcement has checked your speed. Contrary to popular belief, law enforcement does not patrol with the radar unit activated at all times. When we see a vehicle that appears to be over the speed limit, we then activate the radar unit to get a speed. By the time the radar detector alerts, law enforcement already has a speed locked in.

As to mindset, what does operating a radar detector say about someone's intent? Making the choice to use a radar detector tells a police officer that the excessive speed may not have been 'accidental'. It's a good thing to remember when asking yourself, "How fast can I go without being stopped?"

"Ask a Trooper" is a reader-directed, bi-monthly publication that appears in 29 newspapers across western Iowa. Submit your question to your local editor, or directly to Trooper Kurtz at



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