Passport Defends Drivers From Cash-grabbing Communities
By Jim Bray
Do you get the feeling that speed traps are more about revenue generation than safety?
Me, too. I don't believe excessive speed causes nearly as many collisions as does driver stupidity or lack of skill. This is one of the reasons why I recommend that anyone contemplating (or possessing) a driver's license should take an advanced driving course. They're not only fun, they really do help you become a better and safer driver. I'm of the opinion that if more people had such a course under their belts, a lot of the problems on today's highways would take care of themselves.
Yet police and their political masters apparently prefer to see otherwise hardworking cops spending their time sitting on the roadside, zapping fast drivers, than to have them take to the roads and bust people who are swerving madly, driving too slowly, texting – in short, driving like idiots. The proliferation of red light and photo radar cameras reinforces this impression; if were they really meant to foment safety on the streets, you'd think there'd be consequences beyond a fine mailed to the perp.
It's an argument I'm not likely to win, despite the pride I take in driving well and regardless of the advanced driving courses under my belt and lack of collisions I've caused. Sure, I was born with a lead foot, but that doesn't mean I throw caution to the wind. Yet The Man thinks I'm a dangerous, irresponsible driver merely because I enjoy driving quickly when it's safe to do so.
Which brings me to Escort's Passport 9500ix radar detector, an alternative to knuckling under to Big Brother and a defense against such involuntary taxation.
Speeders of the world unit! You have nothing to lose but your demerits!
The Passport 9500ix is one of, if not the, most advanced weapons to date in the war against money hungry politicians who'd rather see cops shoot fish in a barrel than hunt down real criminals. The $499 GPS-equipped 9500ix not only warns you about radar and laser traps, it has a built in – and updatable – database of known red light and speed camera locations.
I tried a GPS/database solution a couple of years ago and it worked pretty well, but it didn't have any radar/laser facilities so was useless against the zap guns. The 9500ix, however, bristles with just about anything you can think of to protect yourself from speed traps, other than a saw with which to remove your lead foot.
Escort says the 9500ix provides "the best long-range protection against every known radar and laser gun in use in North America," which is a great place to start! And the GPS capability not only warns you about known speed traps, it also works to "silence each and every false alert".
False alarms were the least of my worries, as it turned out. I kept my test unit on maximum sensitivity, because I'd rather have a few false alarms than more fines, but there were minimal false warnings anyway.
I got a friend of mine to try the 9500ix on a long distance highway trip he was making, and he reported back that it gave him fewer false alarms than his own recent-vintage detector. He also mentioned that a false alarm it gave on the trip out was ignored when he came back, which impressed him mightily. It warned him about ghost cars on the freeway, too.
It's kind of neat when the unit discovers a false alarm and saves it into the internal database: it beeps and displays "stored", showing you that it's hard at work. This “AutoLearn” feature is a nice touch and, once a location's been stored there are no more warnings about that particular place.
It makes me wonder if the police could use this feature against Passport 9500ix owners by buying one and making a note of where the detector deems is a false alarm, then setting up radar there later to catch drivers lulled into a false sense of security. It'll probably never happen, though; it's easier to park and zap.
Anyway, the 9500ix is bigger than some detectors, but it mounts nicely on the windshield thanks to a quick-release thingy that sticks to the glass via pair of suction cups, and as long as you've seated it well it hangs on beautifully through potholes and corners. You run a coiled cord from the unit to a cigarette lighter/power socket to give it its juice (though it really should be about a foot longer), and a USB port lets you download software and database updates.
The manufacturer says the Passport 9500ix comes with protection from all bands of radar and laser detection and offers 360 degree protection.I can report that the unit has warned me of cops sitting around a corner, which was mighty impressive, and on one trip into the city recently it warned me of a speed trap long before it came into sight (while my lead foot just happened to have been activated), and warned me seconds after that of a photo radar van about half a mile farther down the road. I'd already seen the photo radar van – for some reason I can sniff them out with abandon – but the extra confirmation was welcome.
When you get a warning that you'd better hit the brakes pronto lest you suffer embarrassment and an emptier wallet, the unit not only hollers at you, its blue display reads out your current speed, what type of hazard it senses, and then it turns down its own volume progressively. I like this – the audible warning stays on for the duration of the threat, but it doesn't assault your eardrums any more than necessary.
The unit's configurable, too, offering a variety of choices as to, for example, which bands you want monitored, if you want the speed alert, vocal warnings or the auto learn features activated.
The USB-based upgrade/update process is easy, but it could be easier. You have to either buy an AC adapter to use the detector in the house or download the updates to your notebook computer and then bring it out to your vehicle and update the detector there – which is a real treat at minus 10 degrees, I can tell you. The software is Windows-based, too, so Macaholics should be aware of that.
The company includes 90 days of free updates in the price.
The Passport 9500ix comes with a pretty comprehensive owner’s manual, the one quick-release windshield mount, power cable, two extra suction cups and an attractive travel case. I wish they'd include two quick-release mounts so you can move the detector between multiple vehicles more easily, though an extra once is available for a cost.
As luck would have it, once I started using the Passport 9500ix the speed cops seemed to go on vacation, so judging its performance fairly will have to be a long term project. I'm confident in its performance, though: when speed traps have reared their ugly heads, however, the Passport has protected me flawlessly.
Except for one time, at one particular intersection where the unit seems to have a hard time judging the red light camera's exact location, though it always warns me about it eventually. It's the only location I've found where such an anomaly occurs; otherwise its warnings have been spot on.
It happened the first day I fired up the Passport, which figures. I was driving a Porsche Cayman S and, armed with the detector, feeling smug and invincible. As I approached the intersection in question, the Passport warned me dutifully of the red light camera; I didn't pay it much attention to it because it was close to home and I knew all about that camera. I was barely speeding, too – doing only about 10 mph over the limit – 40 mph in a 30 zone.
Heck, in a Porsche, that's almost like being parked!
Anyway, I guess the Passport was so busy warning me about the red light camera it didn't notice the cop lurking behind a sign, and I was so busy saying "yeah, yeah, I know all about it" to the detector that I didn't notice said cop, either. $150 and a couple of demerits later I was feeling a tad less smug.
Fortunately, that has definitely turned out to be the exception rather than the rule: the Passport has worked flawlessly since then and has saved me several times – probably more than enough to have paid for it considering the fines I've saved.
That's good enough for me. I don't expect any product to be perfect and in the case of the Passport 9500ix it has been much more of a benefit than a hassle. Much more.
It helps me understand, if not like, why politicians have made radar detectors illegal in many jurisdictions. After all, how are they going to feather their nests if the great unwashed manage to evade the speeding fines on which they rely?
Copyright 2009 Jim Bray
Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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