Signaling speed traps no longer illegal

The time-honored practice of flashing headlights to warn drivers going the other way about a speed trap is no longer against the law as of January 1. Thanks to a very persistent lawyer in Oveido, the state legislature reworked the laws regarding headlight flashing, although the attorney is not completely satisfied with the result. Motorists defend the practice by claiming it warns other drivers to slow down and drive safely, but police see it as a sort of obstruction of justice or interfering with a police officer. Drivers who were spotted flashing their brights were ticketed under a provision of the vehicle and traffic code that forbids flashing lights on all civilian vehicles except for turn signals.

That interpretation is not quite what lawmakers had in mind when the vehicle code was written. It was intended to ban strobe lights or official-looking emergency lights on cars and trucks other than emergency vehicles. The amended law allows motorists to flash their headlights no matter what the intent.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers stopped writing headlight-flashing tickets back in March, right after legislators changed the law, even though it didn’ttake effect until 2013. They were prompted by a lawsuit filed against the FHP by that Oveido attorney on behalf of a Land O’ Lakes college student. The student’s $115 ticket was dismissed and a judge says the lawsuit is moot because of the new law. Not so, says the attorney, who claims there are still loopholes. What’s more, he is seeking class action status for the suit on behalf of 2,400 other motorists who paid fines for flashing their headlights between 2005 and 2010. The suit has already been dismissed but the attorney is asking for reconsideration.

Now, be aware that there is still at least one way a police officer can ticket a motorist for spoiling the surprise of a speed trap with some timely headlight-blinking. Florida law still prohibits using high beams within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle or 300 feet of a vehicle ahead. The updated law doesn’t address that, hence the complaint about loopholes.

Source: Pensacola News Journal, “New Florida law permits headlight flashing warnings,” Bill Kaczor, Dec. 31, 2012