ACLU Challenges Arrests For Headlight-Flashing To Warn Of Speed-Traps

Steve Lynch
by Steve Lynch
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aclu challenges arrests for headlight flashing to warn of speed traps

There is more wacky traffic enforcement news coming out of Missouri this month than any other state. Last week, the Missouri attorney general began proceedings to shut down the ability of thirteen speed-trap-infested towns to generate excessive revenue from traffic tickets. Also last week, the cities of O’Fallon, Lake Saint Louis and St. Peters filed suit against St. Charles County saying its residents illegally voted for a ban on red light cameras. The suit actually admitted that the rationale was the potential loss of revenue rather than due to any safety concerns. Even better, the former mayor of St. Peters was convicted in 2006 of accepting cash kickbacks from a red light camera company. (For a truly astounding list of government officials who have been caught taking bribes from photo enforcement companies, go here.)

The big story is that the Missouri ACLU is going after the police department in the Kansas City suburb of Grain Valley for issuing tickets to motorists who tried to warn other drivers of speed-traps by flashing their headlights or high beams. My first thought was: wow, people really still do that?

The ACLU claims that such charges are unconstitutional based on the first amendment, saying that motorists are only expressing their right of free speech and their right to communicate with other drivers. They previously won an injunction against the City of Ellisville, Mo. banning the practice and will likely prevail here.

I say the practice is dying out. I drive a lot of miles, primarily on the West Coast, and cannot remember the last time I saw someone flash their lights to warn me of a speed-trap up ahead. During snowbird season here in Arizona, you do see tons of high beam flashing due to the elderly pulling their combination turn signal/high beam stalks when they signal a turn, so those do not count.

New technology may also be to blame for the demise. My Mercedes-Benz came equipped with Adaptive Highbeam Assist which does not allow for the flashing of the bright lights unless you change the settings in the COMAND system or turn off the automatic headlights. The widespread adoption of daytime running lights and automated headlights may means some drivers never even bothered to learn how to use their lights or high beam controls.

I also think that Generation Why has no idea what headlight flashing means and besides, who can text and flash their lights at the same time?

So do you flash your lights to warn of speed-traps or see others do it in your travels?

Steve Lynch
Steve Lynch

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2 of 88 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Dec 31, 2014

    Some flash lights if their is an accident ahead or if a bridge or road are out. This law is ridiculous and should be challenged.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Jan 01, 2015

    For an out of date practice, many here still practice it. I do it too.

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