Feel Free to Flash Your Lights, It’s Legal! (At Least in One State)

Flash 'em if you've got 'em

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!

The man and his ticket

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?


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  1. good go get em i say, its about time someone put these guys in there place
    cops should not be wasting time dicking around at the side of the road just being a road hazard more than anything and putting there lives and the lives of whoever they pull over in danger by stopping them. i have seen cops causing miles and miles of traffic because he pulled someone over to give them a ticket. people say being on the phone is a distraction i think just trying to keep and eye out for cops is an even bigger distraction.

  2. The object is to slow people down and I tend to slow down and keep them safe, and oh yea some ticket revenue is helpful. That being said, I slow down when someone flashes and at the least check my speed, just in case.

  3. Here in Michigan, there’s no need because the police no longer bother to enforce traffic laws. In fact, it’s pretty hard to find a cop at all unless you call 911. Some of the harder hit towns that have emergency managers or are on the verge are pretty much a no man’s land where you can do whatever you want. The solution? Those speed cameras that are so hated in Europe. Add some randomly switched timers on freeways (lots and lots of them, and you never know which ones are activated, and they don’t use radar so you can’t detect them) are not a bad idea. In Michigan, speeding is epidemic and the typical speed is ten over. I’m all for vigorous enforcement of speeders but police are very ineffective at speed enforcement because they catch such a small percentage of speeders, so automated means are much more effective. I certainly don’t try to warn the scofflaws around here, I want to see them get busted.

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