How Drivers Helping Drivers Avoid Speedtraps Are Winning Fight Against Police

Tickets for warning drivers of speedtraps are ceasing in face of class action suit

When it comes to speed traps set by law enforcement to snare unsuspecting drivers, it turns out that drivers are trying to help other drivers slow down and avoid the hefty tickets.

One such county where there has been a kind of headlight driven on-road social network has been Volusia County, Florida where some 2,900 motorists earned tickets between 2005 and 2009 for flashing their headlights at other drivers to warn them of the approaching speed trap.

The police didn't like being ratted out, so they issued tickets to the whistle-blowers turned headlight flashers.

An Oviedo, Florida attorney last September filed a class action lawsuit against the Volusia County Sheriff's Office alleging that the tickets were wrongfully issued. Last Monday, the Sheriff's office was standing fast in defending their ticket issuing policy. But, a day later, the office reversed direction and said it would stop the practice for now.

"After reviewing the issues at today's staff meeting, the sheriff has directed that our deputies cease writing tickets," sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson said in an emailed statement. Other counties have also backed down until the class action suit is settled. One, the Flagler County Sheriff's office, though, said it would keep writing tickets on speed-trap headlight flashers.

The lawsuit claims flashing headlights to other drivers is protected under the First Amendment and should be considered free speech.

Marc Jones, the Oviedo attorney who filed the lawsuit, said Tuesday he wasn't surprised by the number of agencies that have backed down in the wake of the legal action.

Last January, Circuit Judge Joseph Will struck down a citation handed out to an Osteen, Fla. man by the Volusia County Sheriff's Office in 2009 while also offering his opinion on the matter.

"The court is not convinced that drivers are precluded from signaling their fellow travelers that officers are nearby by turning their headlights off and on or similarly signaling with their high beams. The Judge continued: "One does wonder in passing if the driver would have been ticketed if he had been signaling other drivers to be cautious because of the presence of a warm puppy or a kindly grandmother using a walker to cross the street."

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