Flashing your headlights to warn approaching motorists of speed traps is something most courteous drivers have done at some point while behind the wheel.
Before I even got my learner’s permit, I remember asking my parents why someone heading in the opposite direction would flash their lights at us for what seemed to be no apparent reason.
It was then that I learned these other drivers were just nicely letting us know that we needed to be on our driving P’s and Q’s because law enforcement was up ahead.
To me, headlight flashing ranks right on up there with the driving etiquette of waving your hand and mouthing the words “Thank you” if someone lets you cut in front of them or “Sorry” if you accidentally cut someone off.
In a society that has seemingly traded these courteous driving tidbits for outrageous acts of road rage, it is definitely a rarity to get these nice gestures.
I know on my many travels to and from Houston on U.S. Highway 59, I find myself caught off guard at times that someone would be nice enough to try and save me from getting a speeding ticket by simply clicking their lights on and off.
It’s crazy to think someone could be ticketed for it.
But that’s exactly the subject of a heated debate brewing in Florida.
Erich Campbell, a student at St. Petersburg College’s Tarpon Springs campus, was driving his Toyota Tundra pickup on the Veterans Expressway in Tampa on a Monday night, Dec. 7, 2009, when he spotted two black-and-tan state trooper cruisers parked in the median.
When he saw them, he said, he flashed his headlights on and off a few times to alert motorists headed in the opposite direction.
The Florida Highway Patrol didn’t appreciate the help.
The troopers pulled Campbell over and ticketed him, citing the illegality of flashing his lights.
Claiming no such law exists, Campbell, 38, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of every other driver in Florida ticketed for the same violation over the past six years, accusing police of misinterpreting state law and violating motorists’ free speech rights.
Campbell and his attorney, J. Marc Jones of Oviedo, say police are misinterpreting a law that’s meant to ban drivers from having strobe lights in their cars or official-looking blue police lights.
Soon after Campbell sued the state, the Highway Patrol on Aug. 29 ordered all troopers to stop issuing tickets to motorists who use headlights as a signal to other drivers.
The lawsuit estimates that 2,400 motorists in Florida were cited for headlight-flashing between 2005 and 2010. It asks a circuit judge to certify the case as a class action on behalf of those other motorists, which means that if the state loses, it could be forced to return a lot of money.
Florida is not the only state that basically says being helpful to your fellow drivers is against the law.
In Alaska, a State Trooper has probable cause to stop a driver who flashes a vehicle’s high beams based upon a violation of 13 AAC 04.020(e)(1).
In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ruled that flashing one's high beams during the day to warn of speed traps is legal.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, flashing high beams or headlights is a violation of A.R.S. Section 28-942.1 (Failure to Dim Headlights).
In Texas, it is NOT illegal, according to The Texas Transportation Code, Title 7 Vehicles and Traffic, Subtitle C Rules of the Road, Chapter 547 Vehicles and Equipment.
According to this law, drivers are required to have two operating headlights on their vehicle, and one on each side of the front of the vehicle.
Texas law states when headlights must be used, but it does not state when they must NOT be used.
Also Texas does not have any traffic laws that make flashing one’s headlights to warn oncoming vehicles that a police vehicle is nearby illegal.
The flashing of headlights serves many purposes. It may warn of other "dangers" like motor vehicle accidents or an animal in the roadway. Flashing headlights is a non-verbal method for communicating with other drivers. It may mean, "Dim your bright lights," "I’m about to pass you," or "There’s a speed trap ahead."
Do you flash your headlights to warn of upcoming speed traps?
Why or why not?
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