Legality of Flashing Headlights to Warn Motorists of Speed Traps

Imagine the following scenario: As you are driving on a roadway anywhere in the country, an oncoming motorist flashes his bright lights at you. Many drivers learn from a young age that this standard warning means that a speed trap or law enforcement waits up ahead. However, in Florida, the freedom of motorists to communicate this standard warning was being threatened. Law enforcement routinely cited drivers who flicker their high beams at other motorists.

In May 2012, in Seminole County, Florida, a judge ruled that drivers have the right to flash their car bright lights to oncoming drivers as a warning to other motorists about the presence of police or speed traps on the road. He based his ruling on the constitutional right of free speech through the use of communication with others through their headlights.

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Prior to the ruling, citizens were uncertain as to the legality of flickering bright lights. In fact, if police caught drivers flashing their beams in warning, they gave them a ticket. Despite the question of legality, drivers often flashed their lights as a standard driving courtesy.

Ryan Kintnet received a traffic ticket from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office for flashing his headlights. However, he decided to fight back and contacted Marc Jones, the traffic ticket lawyer who eventually won the battle in court. In issuing the ticket, law enforcement personnel cited a statute about illegal lights on vehicles. The judge decided that law did not apply to those who flash their high beams.

The ruling has caused other local agencies to stop ticketing drivers who flicker their bright lights at other motorists. For motorists in Seminole County and neighboring areas, this ruling means that the courts have set a precedent for the protection of freedom of speech on the roadways. Motorists can continue to exercise this time-honored tradition of flashing their headlights at other drivers without fear of retaliation from law enforcement personnel.