Are you familiar with the saying, "Flying under the radar?" Military pilots coined the phrase to describe how they evaded being detected by enemy radar. The technique is to fly so close to the ground that their adversary's radar waves pass over their aircraft.

Whether you're a habitual speeder or a law-abiding citizen who wants to avoid getting caught in a local revenue-enhancing speed trap, the following could help you figuratively fly under police radar. Even if you're a responsible driver, avoiding tickets makes good financial sense. Fines for tickets are skyrocketing. Like many states under financial duress, California raised its traffic ticket fines in January 6: A speeding ticket for 1-15 mph over the limit now costs a minimum of $214!

Radar and Laser Basics

Police radar and laser speed-tracking units work on similar principles explained in this story. An officer "fires" a burst of radio waves or light waves toward your vehicle. Your vehicle reflects those waves back to the radar or laser "gun." A computer in the gun measures the time and/or frequency of the reflected signal to calculate your speed.

Decrease Your Reflective Image

Radar and laser speed traps are often set up to track vehicle that are less than 1000 feet from an officer. To reduce your chances of being "shot," you can reduce the radar profile of the vehicle you drive.

First, size matters. A truck or SUV is a bigger target than a tiny sports car. A shiny vertical chrome grill on a semi truck can reflect a radar beam back to an officer from as far away as a mile. Extra chrome trim on the front of your vehicle will likewise make it an easier target to hit with a laser. Know this when you're tempted to speed.

Second, color matters to laser guns. Laser units work by sending out pulses of UV light, so a darker vehicle color will reflect less light back to the laser gun than a bright color. As you'd expect, white vehicles make great laser targets. Vehicle color doesn't impact radar units.

Additionally, if you can legally drive without a front license plate, do so. That flat, reflective surface is the perfect electromagnetic wave reflector.

For those states that require front plates, some companies produce license plate covers that claim to reduce the readability of license plates. The legality of these devices varies widely, and in some locations such as Washington, D.C., can invite the user to a $300 fine. According to "Radar Roy," a retired police officer and current subject-matter expert in speeding countermeasures, many plate covers are worthless. Ditto for license plate sprays. Don't waste your money.

However, in an interview with AOL Autos (and on his website, RadarDetector.org), Radar Roy explained that there is something else you can do to decrease your vehicle's laser reflectivity. "We've tested a wax-like coating called Veil Stealth Coating. Brushed on to headlight lenses and shiny surfaces at the front of a vehicle, independent tests show that it cuts the distance of laser tracking by 50- to 73-percent."

Future Advances

The technology war between cops and speeders shows no signs of letting up. According to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, new materials used for photovoltaic cells could also have applications for both radar and laser absorption.

RPI researchers have engineered carbon nanotube arrays to produce super dark absorbers that effectively absorb and trap electromagnetic radiation, including police radar and laser frequencies. The clusters of nanotubes are created using a chemical vapor deposition process and with some clever manufacturing, the end product is a wave-sucking film. In theory, the film could be applied to the front surfaces of vehicles, reducing its reflectivity.

The Best Defense

Independent tests inform ticket avoiders that using the above stealth tips in concert with a modern GPS-enabled radar detector, such as the Escort 9500 IX, give you the best chance to avoid making a forced contribution to a municipality's cash coffer. While it takes some effort, the results could pay for themselves if they enable you to avoid even one citation.