Feel Free to Flash Your Lights, It’s Legal! (At Least in One State)
We’ve touched on this topic before, but it’s time to revisit it:
Should flashing headlights to warn motorists of a speed trap be illegal?
A Florida man has won his First Amendment case against the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, which ticketed him for flashing his lights to warn other drivers of a speed trap. The Orlando Sentinel says a judge said that the deputy who ticketed Ryan Kintner, 25, had misapplied a state law banning aftermarket flashing emergency lights. The judge went even further, and ruled that flashing your lights to communicate with other drivers qualifies as constitutionally protected speech.
If you’re in Florida, flash all you want!
Even with that verdict, though, the case isn’t over. Kintner’s attorney wants to take it further and has filed a class action lawsuit that charges the Florida Highway Patrol with violating a court order prohibiting the police from ticketing motorists for flashing their brights. It’s a hot topic that’s getting a lot of attention, probably because there aren’t many additional ways to communicate with other motorists. Lights seem like a natural choice, since we use them to signal turns and urge slow left-lane motorists to get out of the way. Why should warning about speed-traps be any different?
I take my light-flashing on a case-by-case basis. If it’s a punk in a Porsche screaming straight into the path of a radar gun, I happily watch to see if he gets nailed. If it’s a young woman who’s probably going to cry as the officer approaches, I’ll give the headlights a quick flash and hope she takes the clue.
Flashing headlights sure doesn’t seem like a safety issue, so the only reason I can think that the police don’t like it is because it cuts into their revenue stream. I haven’t seen other motorists use the headlight-flash much lately, though. Maybe, in this new age, drivers are too busy with their noses in their phones to notice the police.
Should flashing headlights to warn motorists of a speed trap be illegal? Do you do it?