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Hey flashers, you are now protected under the First Amendment right to free speech to give the universal sign to fellow drivers that cops are nearby running radar.

Hailed as a “victory for drivers,” U.S. District Court Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis, Mo. ruled Monday that flashing one’s headlights to warn others about speed traps was free speech.

This is an interesting question I'd never thought of before. I haven't read the court's ruling (it's not linked on the page above), but the result seems right to me.

As far as I know, flashing one's headlights in and of itself is not illegal in any state. Drivers flash their headlights for any number of purposes, sometimes in lieu of or in tandem with honking the horn, to signal other drivers. One could call it a safety feature.

Is flashing one's headlights to signal other drivers that a speed trap is nearby the kind of expression that is protected by the First Amendment? Clearly it is; it's communicative and conveys a particularized message. It's expressive conduct under United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).

Of course that's not the end of the inquiry; the next question is, does the state have a justification for banning it? It can't reasonably be argued that this would be a content-neutral time/place/manner restriction, because it's not content-neutral; it's specifically directed at suppressing a very specific expression of a very specific idea: "Dude, speed trap, slow down." [OK, maybe not that precisely...]

Let's stipulate for a moment that promoting highway safety is a compelling governmental interest to which a law banning speed-trap-headlight-flashing-warnings would be directed. Is the law narrowly tailored to serve that interest?

Here's where the conversation gets interesting. The state endeavours to promote and maintain highway safety by setting speed limits and sending state troopers out onto the highway to catch speeders and give them tickets. When drivers flash their lights to warn other drivers of speed traps, it helps those other drivers avoid getting a ticket for speeding, thus (theoretically) helping them avoid getting caught breaking the law. It makes it harder for the state trooper to do his job. And state troopers can't be everywhere at once, so they need to catch speeders speeding when they speed past speed traps.

But hold on: You can't assume that everyone who saw a speed-trap warning signal and drove past the speed trap at 54 MPH was necessarily speeding when he saw the signal, let alone at any other time. You also can't assume that the driver who sent the signal knows how fast the other drivers are going as they approach the speed trap, or even that he sent the signal because he thought or assumed they were speeding. So the driver flashing his lights is not necessarily encouraging other drivers to break the law, or even to avoid getting caught.

More importantly, as ACLU attorney Tony Rothert is quoted in the article as saying, "it’s also good for the public because it tells people to slow down, to use caution. That’s never a bad thing[.]" The worst thing that can happen when a driver flashes his lights to warn of a speed trap, is that another driver who is speeding will slow down enough, long enough, to avoid getting a ticket, and then accelerate again until he sees another warning. Or gets a ticket. Or not. The alternative would be to require drivers to simply let speeders speed, just so they can be ticketed.

The fact is that speeders are always at risk of being ticketed whether other drivers warn them or not. And such warnings are not necessarily to be expected when you're out on the road. So allowing drivers to signal speed trap warnings to other drivers doesn't materially increase the risk of speed-related harm. Remember, the goal is to promote highway safety, and that goal is better accomplished by getting people to slow down than by making sure they get a speeding ticket. In that sense, flashing headlights to warn of speed traps helps the police more than it hurts them.

One more thing: It's important to note again that the purpose of speed limits and speed traps is to get people to slow down and drive at or below the speed limit, not to issue tickets or to raise revenue for the state. Allowing speed-trap warnings might interfere with the latter interest, but not the former.

Ultimately, speed-trap warning signals by drivers don't make the roads less safe. Banning speed-trap warning signals by drivers would not make them safer. Accordingly such a law would not be narrowly tailored to the admittedly compelling state interest in highway safety.

It'll be interesting to see if this ruling is appealed, and what happens from here. But I think the court got this one right. What does everyone else think?

Originally posted to GrafZeppelin127 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:15 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.


Should flashing one's headlights to warn other drivers of speed traps be considered protected speech under the First Amendment?

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Comment Preferences

  •  When I flash my headlights (10+ / 0-)

    it means I think you need to slow the F down .
    Or go already .

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:20:31 AM PST

  •  I think it's pretty obvious that it's free speech (26+ / 0-)

    After all, the point of speed traps should be improving safety, saving lives. So having drivers tell others there's a speed trap ahead accomplishes that, right?

    Of course the real reason they're there is to raise revenue thru a regressive tax system called "traffic tickets". The rich don't pay the fine and the increased insurance costs, they call their lawyer and poof ticket gone.

    About 15 or 20 years ago I remember a case in Ohio, IIRC, where some kids were apparently turning the tables on that "revenue enhancement" scheme. One stood a few blocks up the road from the speed trap with a sign warning motorists and another past the speed trap with another sign asking for donations. They made hundreds and got busted for the effort. Don't remember the rest of the details.

    Food processed to be nothing more than simple starches with two dozen flavorings and stabilizers added to make it appear to be food isn't "food". It's "feed" -- what you give to livestock to fatten them up for slaughter.

    by ontheleftcoast on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:23:14 AM PST

  •  I think speed traps are unsafe. (18+ / 0-)

    Ever go out minding your own business when the car in front of you slams on their brakes because they see a police car- they are already busted and you have to avoid rear-ending the vehicle which is now moving at a crawl, below the speed limit.

    •  Maybe you (20+ / 0-)

      shouldn't be following that close.

      The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

      by Pirogue on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:28:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayden, Bluefin, lina

      I almost nailed an old woman who practically stopped in the middle of the road after seeing a radar gun wielding police officer. The person behind me rolled his window down to yell at the cop. That is nuts that some people can get away with that.

      Allow provisional acceptance of things that go against your deepest convictions in the face of a preponderance of evidence.

      by ConservativeBrainTrust on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:01:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Probably should follow at safe distance. BUT... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lgmcp, Yasuragi

      In my city, I've seen them set up speed traps on busy streets.  Becuase they can't just pull the car out and chase people down, the cop just walks right out onto the street, across busy traffic if needed, to flag down the speeder.

      Recently, in my city, they were talking to police about setting up stop-checks on weekends to catch drunk drivers.  People were warning drivers of those as well.  The radio interviewer asked what the difference was between warning about a stop check vs warning about a speed trap.   The police spokesperson answered without hesitation - the point of a speed trap is safety and to encourage people to drive safer.  If that is accomplished by awareness of the speed trap then mission accomplished.  On the flip side, warning people about a stop-check encourages drunk drivers to keep driving which is against public safety.

      It was nice to hear that safety is the prime goal...not collecting money.  And as long as people are driving safely, who cares is they avoided a ticket by slowing down because they were warned by another driver.

    •  Have you ever started across a marked crosswalk (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BRog, realalaskan, jilikins, gffish, Simplify

      to see a car going 50 in residential neighborhood bearing down on you? It happens to me a couple of times a week. Serious as a heart attack! I am not FUCKING joking here. There is also an elementary school two blocks away.

      You should be following at a a safe distance, so forgive me if I don't 'feel your pain.'

      With that said, Portland put up radar with a display showing the drives how fast they were going on the same street a couple of years back, and drivers did slow down. One of my neighbors recently put up bright yellow streamers with a hand painted sign saying slow down. It has not worked, on Tuesday I stepped into the cross walk and four cars going at least 45 screamed past me without stopping. I gave them the finger, but I am sure  they did not see it because drivers do not give a FUCK about pedestrians. They don't even see us.

      So fuck you and your entitlement as a car drive who has more rights to the road than bikes and pedestrians. I know whatever it is your doing is more important than what I am doing but the inconvenience of getting a ticket does not seem as important to me as my life and the elementary school kid you run over.

      And it happens every fucking day. Cars run over pedestrians and the driver gets a ticket - a slap on the hand. Which brings up another point. Why is it the headline is that a pedestrian is 'hit by a car'? No , the pedestrian was not 'hit by a car'; it was hit by the DRIVER of the car. But the driver almost always get a ticket - while the pedestrian is lying dead on a cold slab.

      How is that for road rage you cock sucking mother fuckers?

      I have to go to the store - and cross that street - for some blue cheese or maybe Gorgonzola, which ever is cheaper. Let's hope that whatever the driver is doing isn't more important than my cheese, and I survive to read your comments...

      Slow down! (My neighbor even put up streamers for crying out load.) Would it kill you? It might kill me...

      “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

      by se portland on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:14:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Your speed is ..." machines work great (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        se portland, Pale Jenova, ColoTim, mmacdDE

        and I hope to see them proliferate.   And, especially after they've been up for awhile, ticketing is quite appropriate for those who disregard them.  

        "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

        by lgmcp on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:43:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Even that's still in the passive voice. (5+ / 0-)
        Which brings up another point. Why is it the headline is that a pedestrian is 'hit by a car'? No , the pedestrian was not 'hit by a car'; it was hit by the DRIVER of the car.
        I think even the "pedestrian was hit by the driver of the car" construction is a bit problematic, in that it's still in the passive voice; the pedestrian is still the subject of the sentence, implying that on some level they have agency in the whole affair.

        I wish we would talk about such incidents this way: "The driver hit the pedestrian with their car."

        That makes it clear that the primary responsibility for the incident lies not with the person who was walking at 2-3 miles per hour without a steel skeleton surrounding them, but rather with the person who was almost certainly driving faster than 2-3mph inside a massive and protective steel cage.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 01:48:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Dude... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        se portland, MKSinSA, Hastur, lina

        Look both ways before crossing the street.

        Assume the cars are not going to see you or stop for you.

        Wait until the road is clear before starting to cross it.

        Leave the road-rage at home.

        Is it fair? No.

        The United States for All Americans

        by TakeSake on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 01:50:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It is a form of 'Affluenza' (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

        by se portland on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:16:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Do you walk across interstate highways? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        se portland, Hastur, gffish

        Most of the speed traps I see are out on the interstates not in residential areas.

        In fact, it's often suburban police departments that could otherwise be enforcing the speed limit on your street out trying to get ticket revenue on I270.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 04:14:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Around here speed traps are everywhere. (0+ / 0-)

          I live in the 'burbs and they're always here.

          "Onward through the fog!" - Oat Willie

          by rocksout on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:26:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Where we used to live (0+ / 0-)

          it was "residential neighborhoods" and speed traps were everywhere. And to a large extent, I thought they were justified. I don't know what makes this so, but there was (and still  is) a serious epidemic of "everyone is in too damn big a hurry" to the point where driving 50mph through freaking neighborhoods full of houses and sidewalks and kids was just fine by them.

          Bullshit! Nothing--and I mean nothing--pissed me off more than seeing LTEs in the newspaper, complaining about that. Sorry, you get no sympathy from me on flying down a side street where the limit is 20-25 mph and you're booking twice as fast unless you have someone in your car either giving birth or dying. But out on the interstate? Speed traps are another thing entirely and most times, they do more harm than good. Too many people get freaked out by flashing lights and then they do even stupider shit.

          I think it was Dave Barry who once said "WTF, people? WHY are you slowing down for the cop who has someone pulled over when there's four lanes of traffic whizzing past? The cop is busy right now! Drive faster!"

          This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

          by lunachickie on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 10:58:41 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I first encountered this is Costa Rica (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I was on a vacation in Costa Rica in the early 90s and there everyone is on the warning program by flashing their lights after they have seen a speed trap.

      It's complete nonsense that this was ever a crime in the US. Good news on the court case.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:26:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A traffic violation isn't a crime. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, Mostel26

        It's criminal in nature but it's not a crime, viz., not a felony or even a misdemeanor. You can't go to jail for it, or be placed on probation; monetary fine only, no loss of liberty. That's why traffic tickets are strict liability; no burden of proof.

      •  Very common in Europe (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lina, Keith930

        flashing headlights usually means one of two things.  If the car behind you is flashing them it means 'move the fuck over to the right you slow as snails broken down piece of crap' or if a car is flashing you as they drive towards you  'there's a fucking cop ahead, slow down'.  

        Of course you also have to understand that in certain parts of Europe speed is relative.  What we consider a safe manageable speed at 55 mph is downright pedestrian over there.  Even 100 mph on the highways is slow enough to get flashed as they zoom past you in your little 3 door Renault hatchback, easily doing 110 mph or more in their sleek European coupes.  So respect on the roads is a very important thing at those speeds.  It's proper road etiquette to flash there.  Flashing lights is a courteous and polite way to tell you to get out of their way as opposed to weaving around and cutting your slow ass off as many people do here in fits of road rage.  It's also a way to watch out for one another to warn of impending danger, especially if used in conjunction with the horn.  Driving is an art whose goal is enjoyment especially on the older twisty roads when you're driving a manual.  The police are perceived to be the the enemy, the killjoys who are seeking to stop you from enjoying your drive.  So drivers look out for one another.  Not to mention that the fines are fucking expensive there for speeding, going as high as $1000 US dollars in some cases.  That's a whole months salary in certain parts.  

        This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

        by DisNoir36 on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:41:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good ruling (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hopefully it will hold up.

  •  When folks flash their lights at me (9+ / 0-)

    they're usually telling me I forgot to turn my lights on and dusk is settling in.  Yeah, it's an old car.

    But maybe I'll start pretending there's speed traps, just to get a little traffic calming.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:27:09 AM PST

  •  I was really surprised I got this wrong (0+ / 0-)

    when I took my last drivers license test after moving to another state. I thought everyone did that. And it should indeed be a right to free speech. If anything it warns drivers to slow down and drive cautiously. They many have not even realized they were speeding if not using cruise control.

    "In this world, hate has never yet dispelled hate. Only love can dispel hate." ~ Buddha

    by Leslie Salzillo on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:28:09 AM PST

  •  It's an interesting case (0+ / 0-)

    We had one in central PA a few years ago but it wasn't big enough to be preserved in The Googlez.  My lay opinion is that it should be illegal to flash someone who's obviously speeding, because that's like telling someone with a knife or a fistful of illegal drugs that the cops are up ahead, but it shouldn't be illegal to flash someone who's not obviously speeding because you're not protecting lawbreaking.  Give the practical impossibility of determining whether an oncoming car is obviously speeding, there should be a big presumption in favor of it being legal; I'm open, however, to specific instances where it wouldn't be.  

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:43:33 AM PST

    •  It's not illegal to tell someone with a knife (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bluefin, Kevskos

      that the cops are coming. Not even remotely. Maybe if they killed someone and you're lying to the cops to delay the police it might be illegal. Neither would telling someone with drugs that the police are coming. Freedom of speech is incredibly broad, and I'd bet that restricting it as you suggest would have a good number of ramifications, very few of the good most likely.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 07:33:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not really true either, though. If you (0+ / 0-)

        and the knife-wielder are assaulting someone and you're serving as the lookout, warning them that the cops are coming is potentially part of your role as an accomplice.  

        •  Serving as the lookout helps the perpetrator (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          commit the crime. Aiding and abetting liability requires that the defendant took some substantial step, did something to help the primary actor do the illegal thing. If you're serving as a lookout and then tell the actor that the cops are coming, you were already guilty of aiding and abetting before you said anything. You were helping him to commit the crime.

          By contrast, flashing your lights to warn of a speed trap in no way helps the other driver to speed.

          •  You're right. I was trying to avoid parsing the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            distinction that finely, but I do think there is a difference between flashing your lights and serving as a lookout.  I was just trying to point out that there are circumstances where alerting someone to the presence of law enforcement would not be constitutionally protected.  

  •  I sometimes flash my lights (4+ / 0-)

    when I actually am trying to get the windshield washer stuff.  I perpetually forget which side of the wheel it's on.

  •  Loophole (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hastur, Bluefin

    The loophole a lot of localities have used to avoid the constitutional argument is to claim that flashing you high beams unnecessarily creates a road hazard by impairing the other driver's vision.

    BS, but that's the angle they are often using.

    •  If that were true, they'd have to outlaw (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peptabysmal, Bluefin, jilikins

      flashing one's lights altogether. At least then the restriction would be content-neutral. As long as cars have this feature, people are going to use it.

    •  And yet I've never heard of one of the most (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jilikins, mmacdDE

      obnoxious bad driver traits being ticketed: the jerks that drive with their brights on all the time.
      And many of them around here will have a jacked up redneck tricked out pickup or SUV, usually equipped with extra auxiliary high beams and fog lights, all on.
      Compensating for their extra small stick shifters, I guess.

      "The church of life is not in a building, it is the open sky, the surrounding ocean, the beautiful soil"...George Helm, 1/1977

      by Bluefin on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 08:21:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lol I sometimes drive with my brights on (0+ / 0-)

        But in my defense, my headlights suck and I need more to see in conditions other drivers might not. I got a 2003 ford focus and the reg lights just don't have very good wattage or something, plus I think it's cross eyed, the lights seem to aim high and not straight.

        •  Not funny, get them aimed, there are adjusting (0+ / 0-)

          screws for each headlight.
          It's a simple job, you can park in front of a garage door or wall with the lights on and see how the headlights are pointing, then make any needed adjustments with a screwdriver (you get a rough aim, then drive them, and come back and readjust if necessary). The low light beam should illuminate the road surface about 40-70 feet ahead (I'm guessing), and be aimed from the lane center to the right shoulder. The high beams should be mostly straight ahead and slightly left of center; the aim of the highs follow the lows automatically in most designs, but not always.

          And the kind of lights that are behind a clear plastic protective screen/window/cover/whatever get that cover abraded and clouded by road debris and sunlight.
          It is very easy to take some polish, or the products marketed for this purpose, and with a little rubbing and scrubbing on the cover, restore the plastics' transparency so that the light will exit the lamp at full brightness.

          "The church of life is not in a building, it is the open sky, the surrounding ocean, the beautiful soil"...George Helm, 1/1977

          by Bluefin on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 01:50:41 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  truckers have always used CB radios for this (6+ / 0-)

    They talk explicitly about cops, e.g., there's a cop lurking at mile marker 154, and I don't believe anyone has ever tried to prosecute them.

    If using a CB radio to broadcast verbal messages deliberately intended to help other truckers break the law with impunity isn't a crime, I don't see how flashing your lights could be.


  •  Of Course (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    they got this one right! The idea that we would not be allowed to flash our headlights where we want, when we want, is ludicrous.

    Allow provisional acceptance of things that go against your deepest convictions in the face of a preponderance of evidence.

    by ConservativeBrainTrust on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 11:59:15 AM PST

  •  I must be very popular (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Santa Susanna Kid, Bluefin, ozsea1, suesue

    People in other cars are always signaling to me that I'm "Number 1"

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:06:01 PM PST

  •  97% in favor. Cool. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Rivers are horses and kayaks are their saddles

    by River Rover on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:19:19 PM PST

  •  Do radar detectors still exist? I remember the (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    defluxion10, Mostel26, MKSinSA, myboo, suesue

    heady days cruising the highways with my Whistler on the dash, CB on the hump and antenna on the trunk.

    Good times :)

    Citizens United: 3 Branches, 2 Parties, 1 Currency, 0 Accountability.

    by here4tehbeer on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:41:25 PM PST

  •  If we couldn't flash our lights, there would be (10+ / 0-)

    more roadkill in my area. I drive twisting mountain roads in the middle of nowhere. If a car coming around a curve flashes its lights, I do not automatically think "cop." I think "deer." Or it could be a bear or wild turkey - or bicyclist - you get the idea.

    Most of the time I do not drive fast enough to worry about speed traps. But I do flash my lights at on-coming cars when I see a cop hidden away shooting radar. I do not believe they need to use radar and issue tickets to get people to slow down. Small towns use radar to increase revenue. All they really have to do to slow traffic is park a cruiser at the side of the road - heck you can use a dummy!

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 12:46:18 PM PST

    •  Was waiting for someone to say that. (7+ / 0-)

      Flashing light could mean speed trap, deer, moose, branch in road.

      I read it as a general caution.

      Also, on the highway it can communicate to a vehicle with the turn signal blinking that they're clear to change lanes. Try it with truckers, they understand it.

      "You don't have to be smart to laugh at fart jokes, but you have to be stupid not to." - Louis CK

      by New Jersey Boy on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 06:10:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  lots of reasons to flash in the country (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bluefin, Most Awesome Nana

        I live iwhere there are lots of blind spots in the road.  I'll flash to let people know there's something in the road, sometimes even a stalled car or accident or emergency vehicle ahead.  Often it's injured wildlife, or maybe a cow that's out.

      •  agreed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Most Awesome Nana

        I was thinking I saw it used mostly to warn of road hazzard  - one time in the middle of the night someone had lost a sofa in the middle of the interstate - we were sure appreciating the warning from the other drivers.

      •  Not as much as they use to... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        New Jersey Boy, janmtairy, kurt, Puddytat
        Try it with truckers, they understand it.
        When I started driving (right after headlights were invented ;-) ), we learned the language to make it easier/safer to be on the same roads. But I think in the last 20 years, the practice has died out. I see very few car drivers doing anything more than angrily flashing lights when they aren't being allowed to go fast enough. And they cut back in front of trucks way too soon - often making me cringe and I'm not even in the truck.

        Maybe the truckers are fed up with us, but I don't see them using their lights very often - except to other truckers. I still signal when it is okay for a truck to pull back in front of me, but I rarely get a thank you flash. And most of the time truckers do not signal when it is okay for me to pull back.  

        "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

        by Most Awesome Nana on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:11:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I flash to let someone in and warn (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Most Awesome Nana

          about speed traps, but the practice, in general, is dying off.

          There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

          by Puddytat on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 01:26:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Truckers usually flash their running lights rather (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Most Awesome Nana

          than the headlights.  Flashing high beams can temporarily "blind" a driver, whether its from in front or from behind.

          Not having running lights on my car, I try to remember this and signal trucks by briefly turning my headlights off and back on.  Of course, that involves turning a knob which is harder to do than flicking the stalk.

          We must drive the special interests out of politics.… There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will neither be a short not an easy task, but it can be done. -- Teddy Roosevelt

          by NoMoJoe on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 07:32:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You are right. Truckers headlights would be (0+ / 0-)

            blinding. I don't think car headlights (except for those horrendous blue things) are all that bright - at least not for a short flash.

            I turn my lights on and off as a thank you. But I still flash the high beams as a warning.

            "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

            by Most Awesome Nana on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 08:04:57 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  So simply put the States wants Flashing Headlights (5+ / 0-)

    banned cause they want all that Money from Speeding Tickets.

  •  The police here in Madison publish where they are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoonerG, mmacdDE

    going to be setting up speed traps each week, or as they say "will be specifically addressing traffic violations this week in the following areas:"

    Don't know their reasoning but maybe that way more people slow down.

  •  CLEARLY most speed enforecement is (6+ / 0-)

    budget enhancement and nothing else.

    Otherwise the police would bitch about other driving 'encouraging others to slow down".

    Fucking cops.

    The intensity of police endeavors is inversely proportional to their overall importance.

    Or directly proportional to the income their departments get.

    (Imagine if we could institute forfeiture against rapists...)

    Legal means "good".
    [41984 | Feb 4, 2005]

    by xxdr zombiexx on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:40:51 PM PST

    •  would NOT.... (3+ / 0-)

      Legal means "good".
      [41984 | Feb 4, 2005]

      by xxdr zombiexx on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:42:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It is true, zombiexx (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Most departments are not allowed to have stated ticket "quotas", but supervisors get around it by putting pressure on the troops; they just don't call them quotas, but they are. If they don't write enough citations, they are called in for job performance counseling. If they don't then up the tickets, they get written up. It can escalate from there to switching shifts suddenly, or transferring them to a further away assignment. Some cops are out there looking for good felony suspects, and they make arrests, but never write tickets. Those are the ones that get dinged. The ones that write a lot of tickets, never catch the robbers or the burglars, etc. But, when the captain presents his ticket stats each month downtown, why everybody there is all smiles because of the revenue produced. Usually, motor cops are tasked with producing the high ticket numbers, because that is their only function. This is the L.A. story. Also, out here, the CHP will cite everyone they stop, even if it's for a light bulb. If you have a spare light bulb, and offer to change it out right there on the spot, CHP will write the ticket anyway; you know for the fees...SSK    

      "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed" - Keith Richards UID 194838

      by Santa Susanna Kid on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:24:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I remember an incident many years ago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pale Jenova, Hastur

    that a hitchhiker wrote a little sign to warn drivers that there was a speed trap ahead.  When he was approached by cops, he tossed the sign.  They ticketed him for littering.

    I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

    by beemerr90s on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 05:21:49 PM PST

  •  Yes! A rare victory over the police state (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hastur, SmallTownTexan

    Sometimes, just sometimes, the people get a little slice of their power back from the police state that seems hell bent on legalizing highway theft at gunpoint.

    My wife got a $125 dollar ticket once from a thug with a gun for the high crime of going 5 over.  He knew damn well she, as an out of state driver, wasn't going to drive 200 miles back to contest the fraud in court.  And he also knew she would never complain to any of his local officials.    

    Good, we need to be able to warn other drivers that there's an armed robber ahead.  Because if it's the end of the month, they'll fine people for going 1mph over the limit.  It is absolutely true that speed traps are revenue minded only.  Just like red light cameras.  Legal theft, and nothing more.

  •  This below times TEN (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SoonerG, misslegalbeagle
    More importantly, as ACLU attorney Tony Rothert is quoted in the article as saying, "it’s also good for the public because it tells people to slow down, to use caution. That’s never a bad thing[.]" The worst thing that can happen when a driver flashes his lights to warn of a speed trap, is that another driver who is speeding will slow down enough, long enough, to avoid getting a ticket, and then accelerate again until he sees another warning.

    Isn't making people drive more slowly to help ensure the safety of the public the POINT of having speed limits and cops and laws to enforce those limits?

  •  Hmm. I'm going to have to disagree. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Apparently a heavily minority opinion!

    Imagine, if you will, an environment in which warning other drivers of speed traps was so common that a driver could have some reasonable confidence that they would be alerted of where speed traps were.  The driver is then free to speed elsewhere, when he might have been deterred by the uncertainty had he not known -- this, of course, is the point of hiding a speed trap.  The state's construction of speed traps is then thwarted in its purpose.

    If I realize that Jimmy is wearing a wire, is it constitutionally protected speech to quietly take Thug-E into the next room and tell him why he shouldn't sell Jimmy any dope today?  Not that I knew Thug-E was going to sell Jimmy any dope.  I was just observing and broadcasting information about government activities.  Hey, it might have prevented some drug trafficking to do so.  That's never a bad thing, right?

    This particular speech is narrowly aimed at thwarting a public safety measure.  I'm okay with it being considered justified in being prohibited.

    This is my first impression of the situation.  Upon further reflection, I might reconsider.  But on first consideration, I don't think this is a great decision.

    •  Any evidence (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that speed traps serve as a deterrent in the first place?

    •  I'm with you in principle. (0+ / 0-)

      Speed limits are necessary, and they have to be enforced.  But there are arguments to be made on both sides.

      Often speed traps are about revenue collection, not safety.  (You can tell when they put them in places where even responsible drivers might conclude it's okay to go a little faster.)  And the fines are certainly regressive, as they mean nothing to the wealthy.  And there is something galling about the police being able to tell you you can't flash your lights.  We are wary of police authority here, as it is often abused.

      Many of the arguments seem to say "well it doesn't have that much effect, the police are still able to do their jobs, it only hurts them a little".  But if it became a universal practice, it really would hinder them.  A guy I know felt a ticket he received was so unfair, he went home, made a big sign that said "SPEED TRAP AHEAD", then went back and stood by the road for a couple of hours, waving it.  What if enough people did this?

      Anyway, like many things, it's complicated.

      •  If enough people did that, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think it would make the roads and streets a lot safer. Warning other drivers of traffic enforcement can only make them drive more carefully.

        The thought may occur that drivers will be less careful if they know they're not being watched, and that these kinds of warnings help drivers determine whether they're being watched or not, but that's really not true. You can't count on being warned or expect to be warned, no one is bound or required to warn you, so you're always at risk of being watched and ticketed whenever you're out on the road. Warnings make you drive more safely when you know you're being watched, but they don't justifiably give you more confidence that you're not being watched when you haven't been warned.

        I would also note that making a big sign reading "SPEED TRAP AHEAD," standing by the road and waving it would also be protected speech under the First Amendment.

    •  That argument relies on the theory that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoonerG, stevemb

      the government has a legitimate interest in making you believe you're being constantly surveilled, even when you're not.  That's absurd.  

    •  Even if we grant that it is "thwarting a law (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoonerG, kurt, NoMoJoe

      enforcement measure," there can't possibly be anything illegal about "thwarting a law enforcement measure" by effectively telling another person not to break the law. That's true for drivers and for dope sellers. Saying to another person, "don't speed" or "don't sell dope" cannot be illegal. It also can't be considered aiding and abetting because, again, you're telling the person to not do the illegal thing, not helping them do it.

      "Thwarting a law enforcement measure" would be interfering with police directly. Like, I don't know, throwing yourself between the radar gun and the other guy's car so it can't get an accurate reading. Or distracting the state trooper by setting of fireworks or something. If all you're doing is telling someone else that there's a state trooper lying in wait with a radar gun somewhere up ahead, that's not "thwarting a law enforcement measure;" that's telling other drivers to slow down and obey the law.

      What "this particular speech" is "aimed at" is irrelevant; the First Amendment doesn't work that way. What matters is what the restriction of that speech is "aimed at," and whether that constitutes a compelling state interest to which the restriction is narrowly tailored. As the diary points out, even if highway safety is a compelling state interest, outlawing headlight-flashing speed-trap warnings is not narrowly tailored to that interest, because it can't be shown that it would make the roads any safer.

  •  safety argument is weak (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bluefin, myboo, mmacdDE

    when people see the flash they slow it HELPS safety...the only thing that's hurt is revenue

    #2  not all flashing has anything to do with a speed trap...people cam bump the light switch...or flick it check if it's on or not...there are innocent reasons a light might flash that have nothing to do w/ a speedtrap

    PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

    by RumsfeldResign on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 08:14:05 PM PST

  •  I don't like it and I don't do it. Somehow (0+ / 0-)

    flashing your lights as a warning seems unfair to me. You speed you pay the price. It's called personal responsibility.

    And this from someone who likes to drive 100mph on certain stretches of the highway, 80 when I'm just moseying along.

    I have never tried to talk my way out of a ticket, I very politely take them and pay them.

    I speed on the highway only, not in residential districts or side roads.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature. If I had Bill Gates money, I'd buy Detroit.

    by ZenTrainer on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 08:38:22 PM PST

    •  No one says you have to heed the warning. (0+ / 0-)

      Neither can you really count on anyone giving you the warning after they see a speed trap, nor is anyone required to warn you. You're always at risk of being ticketed whether others can/do warn you or not.

  •  is it considered aiding/abetting a misdemeanor? (0+ / 0-)

    or accessory?

    that would be hethe approach to argue.

    •  Speeding is not a misdemeanor. (0+ / 0-)

      It's a traffic violation. Traffic violations are not felonies or misdemeanors; you can't get jail time or probation for them.

      Moreover, it can't be "aiding and abetting" speeding if it signals the other driver to not speed.

      •  by definition they are misdemeanors (0+ / 0-)

        because they are enforced by the police.

        we have civil law and criminal law,  crim law
        is all felonies and misdemeanors.
        Given they ask for your ID and they ask for
        you to sign, it's a personal offense,

        see parking tickets are "Property" violations,
        much like a building code or zoning violation,
        and go against the property,

        but moving violations go against people.

        and if you can't pay the "Fine" for speeding, they
        can and will give you a day in jail. now usually
        it's lock you up at 10 AM and let you go by 3,
        but still,

      •  lets look up Maryland Traffic Code (0+ / 0-)

        All Speed Law Violations are Misdemeanors. Tran. '27-101(a)

        Now they've made them non punishable by jail time, but,
        they are all misdemeanors.

        Maybe in other jurisdictions they are civil law violations
        but, the cops rarely enforce civil law violations,
        instead you have meter maids, and, building inspectors,

        If you don't sign a speeding ticket the police will arrest you
        and drag you down in front of  a judge.

        If you don't sign a parking ticket, you get a bill in the mail
        and at some point they impound the car, not you.

        (Your legal minute brought to you, ,,,,

        •  In New York, there are felonies, misdemeanors, and (0+ / 0-)

          violations. And there are classes of each.

          Speeding is a violation. Parking in front of a hydrant is a violation. Neither is a misdemeanor.

          Not paying the fine, not signing the ticket or not appearing to answer for it, is a separate offense. Whether or not that's a misdemeanor, and what class of misdemeanor, depends on the what the Penal Code says.

          But in New York, speeding is not a misdemeanor. Neither is parking in front of a hydrant. Both are violations punishable only by monetary fine. If you don't pay the fine, you've committed a subsequent and separate offense.

  •  My nitpick: (0+ / 0-)

    It's not really a 'trap' if you're clearly warned what the speed limit is. A speed trap, to me, is where the speed limit sign is hidden in some way, so that a driver will either miss it entirely or have to slam on the brakes to comply.

    For example, this is not a speed trap:

    Note that the actual speed limit change is in the background.

    warning: snark probably above

    by NE2 on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 10:28:07 PM PST

    •  I've always understood the phrase "speed trap" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to mean, idiomatically, a place where a state trooper lies in wait, out of plain sight, with a radar gun. There are plenty of these on the Taconic State Parkway in upstate New York, especially on summer weekends. I've never heard it refer to where and how speed limit signs are posted.

    •  A speed trap is usually (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      where there is an unexpected change in speed and the cop is sitting behind a bush right after the sign so a driver  barely has time to react and adjust before getting tagged.  Near me there is a place where the speed goes from 50 to 40.  It's a new highway that was completed only 5 years or so.  The week the highway opened up I got caught doing 55.  At a 50 mph zone, 5 miles over the limit really isn't enough but 15 miles difference is a $200+ ticket.  Needless to say that many drivers got caught there and it got to the point where the local cops burned that spot and everyone automatically slows down upon approach so that the trap is no longer a trap.  

      This is your world These are your people You can live for yourself today Or help build tomorrow for everyone -8.75, -8.00

      by DisNoir36 on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:59:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't see any argument why telling someone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to OBEY THE LAW can be criminalized.  When you flash your lights, you're saying: hey—don't break the law now!  I have no idea how a state could try and make that illegal.  

  •  Freedom Lives!!! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "Onward through the fog!" - Oat Willie

    by rocksout on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:21:41 AM PST

  •  I wasn't aware we still had a thing called (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "protected speech."

    But snark aside, I'm glad for this ruling. I'd be gladder if protesters (yeah, even the idiots with the tricorner hats) were assured of protected speech.

    I tried to go online to find a similar bear head...but when I searched “Big Bear Head” it gave me a San Diego craigslist ad entitled “Big Bear needs some quick head now” and then I just decided to never go on the internet again.--Jenny Lawson

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:47:19 AM PST

  •  Free speech free speech free speech (0+ / 0-)

    If one teenager browsing in a clothing store warns another that  said store has ample shoplifting security on site, is the first teenager guilty of some sort of crime?
    Is this teenager responsible when prices go up next month at the boutique?

    God bless the ACLU !!!

  •  -.-, --.- FCC Licensed (0+ / 0-)

    to operate in those frequencies.  

  •  ACLU (0+ / 0-)

    I would have thought the ACLU had more important cases to work on than this one.

  •  Freedom, freedom, freedom... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I remember being stationed in Belgium in the USAF in the '60's & '70's.  No speed limits on country roads.  Little Citroens and Peugeots and Fiats struggling to make it up hills at high speeds.  And  the Belgians were offended that anyone would even think of having speed limits on their rural roads.

    The '50's and '60's were so much fun.

  •  libertarian rock crusher (0+ / 0-)
    The– --------- use the most advanced, sophisticated anti-laser technology ever designed to instantaneously detect, notify the driver and jam the pulse laser light signal transmitted by every type of police laser gun. The – ---------are the ideal additions to your K40 radar/laser system, or can be used as a stand-alone laser jammer with any radar detector system.

    Laser Stealth Technology – Deactivates police laser speed measurement capability by emitting a powerful infrared light signal back to the gun at a pulse rate it cannot understand. This enables the driver to avoid detection – something ordinary detectors can’t provide.

    Laser Alert – Provides warning of police laser targeting with a unique audible and visual alert, giving the driver the time needed to react and safely reduce speed.

    Remote Compatible – --------- are uniquely designed to integrate with any K40 Remote Radar System, allowing the user to utilize one warning display for both radar and laser alerts.

    Hidden Warning Display – A custom installed LED light and speaker blends discreetly into the instrument cluster or dash panel, making it completely undetectable to police or thieves.

    License Plate Mount- Strategically positions – --------- right where police laser gun operators are trained to target, while providing a stealth, OEM appearance for the system.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:25:21 PM PST

  •  years ago, I posted speed trap signs on property (0+ / 0-)

    belonging to me and the town cops tore them down.  I complained to town council and we had the following dialogue.

    Is the purpose of speed limits public safety or raising revenue?  If it is public safety and my signs caused people to slow down, then I was merely enhancing the safety provided by speed limits.
    OTOH the town had one cop in 1967 when it had 750 residents.  More recently, it had 4 cops for a population of 350.  Was there an upsurge in crime or was the increase needed to handle the traffic stops?  If it were the latter, then my signs also enhanced revenue as they cost 40 cents each and did not require salaries, benefits, vehicles or uniforms but performed the same function.

    The only way to try to ban my signs would be for the town to admit its speed limits were established as an alternate revenue stream for the town and had nothing to do with public safety  

    •  Interesting. I wonder if they would have had (0+ / 0-)

      the same reaction if your signs has simply said "SPEED LIMIT [X]," or "PLEASE OBSERVE SPEED LIMIT" or something like that, rather than explicitly warning of police presence. The state/town, obviously, posts signs announcing speed limits and speed enforcement ("SPEED CHECKED BY RADAR"), why can't a private citizen do the same?

  •  I never knew of this usage before this (0+ / 0-)

    Whenever I flash my brights at someone, its to warn them of something wrong with their car, like a taillight out, or they don't have their lights on when they should. One time I saw a nail in someone's tire. I also keep flashing them till i can get along side them and tell them what is wrong.

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