You're driving down a two-lane highway, moving at roughly the speed of traffic, perhaps a few miles per hour over the speed limit. Your passenger recommends to you that you slow down because of a well-known speed-trap area ahead. Good advice, right? But what about another passing motorist? Is it legal to flash your headlights at oncoming traffic to let them know of police presence in the area?

According to a federal judge in St. Louis, flashing your headlights to warn of upcoming speed traps is a legally protected form of free speech and is therefore protected by the First Amendment, says Fox 2 News. The ruling came after police in Ellisville, MO, pulled over Michael Elli, a retired man with a clean driving record, for flashing his lights to warn motorists that police were using their radar guns ahead. Elli sued the city, and the American Civil Liberties Union joined him in the suit shortly thereafter.

We agree with the assessment of ACLU attorney Tony Rothert, who said, "In our view that's speech that's protected by the First Amendment and it's also good for the public because it tells people to slow down, to use caution. That's never a bad thing." What about you? Should flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a speed trap be legal? Watch the video, then make your voice heard in our informal poll below.




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 169 Comments
      lasertekk
      • 10 Months Ago
      If the true intent of speed traps is to promote safety, then citizens warning each other to slow down is in effect working towards the same objective. The dissent by law enforcement on this issue only arises due to loss of revenue. Therefore, one can logically conclude the need for that revenue is really the only factor in this matter.
        hemusbull
        • 10 Months Ago
        @lasertekk
        I absolutely support your comment! And something more - aside from the revenue issue we all must warn each other and...slow down!
        Jamie Houk
        • 10 Months Ago
        @lasertekk
        That is exactly what i was going to say. The job of a policeman is to protect and serve the public. Their job is not to fund a city's general budget so it would seem that flashing you lights would accomplish the effect that a speed trap SHOULD be set up for - to get people to slow down. Their is no legitimate reason for law enforcement to disagree with that unless the speed trap really is about just collecting money and meeting a ticket quota.
        Pat
        • 10 Months Ago
        @lasertekk
        100% agree ... there are road signs warning motorists of photo radars (at least where I live). This is no different.
        FuelToTheFire
        • 10 Months Ago
        @lasertekk
        Ignorant peasant commoners can't be trusted to warn other ignorant peasant commoners of the law. So it's better in the long run that they pay through their noses.
          flychinook
          • 10 Months Ago
          @FuelToTheFire
          I know you're trying to act rich, but when you say things like "peasant commoners", you just come off as a caricature of a rich person. I picture you as Uncle Pennybags of Monopoly fame, but with a monacle. And the mental acuity of dog ****.
      PrintError
      • 10 Months Ago
      It's both legal and proper to flash your lights to request for a slower vehicle in the left lane to kindly move over (not that anyone pays attention or obeys), so who's to say you weren't just asking the car in front of you to move over? Further, it's common courtesy to flash your lights to a passing 18-wheeler when they request to merge past you, to let them know their trailer has cleared your car. Flash away people. It's both polite AND legal.
        Mondrell
        • 10 Months Ago
        @PrintError
        "Further, it's common courtesy to flash your lights to a passing 18-wheeler when they request to merge past you, to let them know their trailer has cleared your car." A courtesy? Absolutely. Common? Not in my parts. . .
          axiomatik
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Mondrell
          @cgm I rarely see passenger cars do this, but I have seen truckers do it to each other many, many times. Actually, what they typically do is kill their headlights briefly instead of flashing their brights. This lets the passing truck know that they are safely ahead of the truck being passed and may pull back over.
          cgm9999
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Mondrell
          I've never heard of this nor have I ever seen this practiced, either. In fact, with my interest piqued, I just texted my uncle who has been a truck driver for the last 12 years and he's never heard of this as well. Must be a regional thing.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Mondrell
          I've done it my whole life. Most of the times, the trucker will wave thanks.
        SteveM
        • 10 Months Ago
        @PrintError
        In Germany, they use their left turn signal instead of flashing high beams. I think this is a much better way to signal for people to move over. For trucks, put your hazard lights on for a couple flashes instead of flashing your high beams. It's what THEY do.
      Lastchance
      • 10 Months Ago
      It has come across my attention that a lot of people don't understand the meaning of flashing one's lights. Pretty much every time I do it people either flash their lights back or flip me off. The only people that seem to get it are older men and some women.
        Ash Ayman Shairzay
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Lastchance
        So true... Whenever I flash, the cars in front of me promptly switch to the right lane, even though I'm deliberately 10+ car lengths behind. And I'll admit, just recently someone behind me was flashing their lights and at first I thought, "I'm going 20 over the limit already. The hell does this guy want?"
          Cayman
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Ash Ayman Shairzay
          If he's on your bumper, then he likely still did want you to move over. Doesn't matter how far you're going over the limit, the left lane is for passing; if you can move over than you should.
        Papi L-Gee
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Lastchance
        A lot of drivers in Maryland flash their lights as an alternative to blowing their horn or yelling at people.
      Lachmund
      • 10 Months Ago
      I would really like to know who are these people voting for NO on an enthusiast website like this.
      Jonathan
      • 10 Months Ago
      Here's the thing, whether or not you feel speed traps are good or bad, we should have THE RIGHT to warn other motorist. Freedom of speech. Personally, I do it all the time, but not just for speed traps, any kind of road hazard.
      • 10 Months Ago
      [blocked]
      Quest
      • 10 Months Ago
      Know what's sad... people actually voted that it should be illegal to flash their light to warn of speed-trap (emphasis on trap)! Either they didn't understand the question or... sacry stuff ;-/
        Quest
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Quest
        Michael Elli, this Bud's for you... godspeed :-)
      kajohns1964
      • 10 Months Ago
      Yeah Constitution Baby!
      kyle720
      • 10 Months Ago
      Speeding doesn't cause accidents, speed differentials do. So driving 70mph when traffic is going 78mph. The person driving 70mph is being dangerous. The Michigan State Police did a study that said the safest speed to drive on interstates in MI outside of major metro areas with traffic is 77-78mph. The biggest causes of accidents on interstates are slow moving traffic not staying right, and people not signaling before changing lanes. Hence why in other parts of the world they can have higher speed limits, yet lower traffic accidents. Speed differentials, not signaling your intentions, and causing people to have to pass on the right because you don't want to get over are the issues.
        kajohns1964
        • 10 Months Ago
        @kyle720
        Correct, speeding doesn't cause accidents. Cars hitting things causes accidentS
      joe shmoe
      • 10 Months Ago
      not enough people flash their lights for it to matter.
        Papi L-Gee
        • 10 Months Ago
        @joe shmoe
        Happens all the time here in Georgia.
        Sean Conrad
        • 10 Months Ago
        @joe shmoe
        I only flash my lights when someone is driving like an unsafe asshat.
        S.
        • 10 Months Ago
        @joe shmoe
        Depends on where you live. It was an act of courtesy back in NH, I'd always see it. Here in UT, people are nose deep texting on their cell phones so they don't notice the cop, nor anybody flashing their lights to warn them.
        Super D Spamalot
        • 10 Months Ago
        @joe shmoe
        I don't flash my lights because I want speeders to get caught, but I totally think people should be allowed to flash their lights if they want.
      rex
      • 10 Months Ago
      Ok ACLU, now about that 2nd amendment. Oh no help there? Never mind.
        GirchyGirchy
        • 10 Months Ago
        @rex
        What do you need help for in that area? I'm freely able to head to the store, gun show, or some dude's house and buy any number of firearms. I could fill my whole house with them if I wanted. Not sure which of my rights are being infringed....
      dovegraybird
      • 10 Months Ago
      Personally I can't wait till the subject of raising speed limits comes up. Fact is we are following rules based on cars of 45 years ago. An average stop of 200 + feet from 60 was normal in 1970. Most cars can do this in under 140 ft now.
        flychinook
        • 10 Months Ago
        @dovegraybird
        I agree that cars are much more capable now than they were 40 years ago, but I also feel like the drivers have become less capable. A driver will cover a lot of distance at 80 mph over the course of a Facebook status update.
        jebibudala
        • 10 Months Ago
        @dovegraybird
        Yeah, but now we have people who need to check FaceBook & text while driving, so in actuality the speed limits should be reduced to walking speed, everywhere....... including interstates.
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