Flashing Headlights to Warn of Speed Traps – Legal or Not?
No – not “those” headlights, boys – we’re talking about the front of your car (and in case you were wondering – flashing “those” headlights is illegal in all 50 states and is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor).
There are two types of DMV drivers – those who believe that speed traps are a paid service (through taxes – which are due October 5th, Virginia folks) and that tickets handed out through those police campaigns are well deserved by the offending speeding party. And then there are those – a secret network of drivers determined to “stick it to the man” and save someone a bad day – through warning oncoming traffic of a potential oncoming insurance premium increase. The later group warns complete strangers of a speed trap ahead by flashing their headlights – typically from off to on quickly repeating until they feel their warning message has been heeded.
But is flashing your headlights to warn of a police presence ahead illegal?
The answer? It varies from state to state with each state’s governing body enacting its own laws towards the legality of flashing one’s headlights. In 2014, a case regarding Michael Elli was presented to a Federal Judge in Missouri. In 2012, Mr. Elli flashed his headlights into oncoming traffic to warn of a speed trap and was ticketed with a fine of $1,000 citing obstruction a police investigation. In court 2 years later; however, the charges were dropped. Why? Autrey, the judge, said in his ruling that the flashing of headlights “sends a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law — whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.”
So, it’s legal in Missouri, but is it legal in the DMV. Yes – flashing your headlights into oncoming traffic to warn of a speed trap is legal in Virginia and is considered acceptable by police officers in Maryland and Washington DC – but by law they can still write you a ticket for impeding a police investigation.
Yes – Flashing your headlights into oncoming traffic is legal and considered Freedom of Speech protected under the First Amendment.
“In Maryland, police officers sometimes ticket drivers for flashing car headlights under a law which prohibits driving in a vehicle with flashing lights and laws prohibiting “obstructing a police investigation”. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland challenges the current interpretation of the law, contending the law refers to an adjective and not a verb; that automatic flashing lights on non-emergency vehicles are illegal, but the act by a driver of manually flashing a vehicle’s headlamps is not. Though ticketing was common in the 1990s, Maryland and Washington DC police say that flashing one’s headlights was not against the law in either place.
In Virginia, headlight flashing to warn of police activity is not illegal, even though other evasion techniques like radar detectors are outlawed. Virginia motor vehicle code specifies an “audible or light signal” to indicate overtaken vehicles should yield in certain situations” – via Wikipedia
So – to all of you DMV drivers out there warning strangers to a would-be bad day, keep on flashing.