Proposed law would make flashing headlights to warn drivers of police, hazards a form of free speech
TRENTON - New Jersey drivers can get a ticket if they flash their headlights to warn another driver of a speed trap, but a Trenton lawmaker wants to change that.
The behavior is technically legal in New Jersey, according to a 1999 appellate court ruling that said the state's law against misusing headlights "was never intended to prohibit a motorist from warning oncoming motorists that a speed trap lies ahead."
Republican Assemblyman Ron Dancer says police departments give out tickets for "improper headlight use," but the statute does not specifically address whether flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a road condition is allowed.
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Dancer says the practice is a form of free speech and has introduced legislation to clarify that and legalize it. "Common sense tells us a person should be able to look out for others and warn them of hidden dangers," he says.
Under the proposal, drivers could flash his or her headlights in the direction of oncoming traffic to warn another driver of an accident, road hazard or the presence of police officers enforcing the speed limit.
"If law enforcement is using radar to combat excessive speed, a motorist who flashes the lights is having a positive impact, helping to slow the flow of traffic and improve road safety," Dancer says. "However, if tickets are being issued for blinking the lights, frankly, that is an overly aggressive tactic to preserve the flow of easy money from speed traps."
Dancer hopes to have that ruling translated into law.