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Ask a Trooper: Flashing your headlights

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Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol

Flashing Your Headlights

Question:

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There was a very recent ruling by a judge that motorists can legally flash their lights to warn other motorists of a speed trap. How does this affect law enforcement and is this issue that simple, or is there a lot more to it than that? Thanks.

Answer:

I’ve heard of the ruling, but I have not yet read any specific legal documents related to that ruling. Remember, our traffic law in Minnesota requires dimming your bright lights within 1000 feet of meeting another vehicle, and that still stands. Minnesota Statute 169.61 (b) states: “When the driver of a vehicle approaches a vehicle within 1,000 feet, such driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.”

When you are meeting another driver and they flash their lights at you, the first thing most drivers think of is that maybe they have their own bright lights on and the other driver is trying to get them to dim them.

Other reasons that motorists flash their lights is to warn of a hazard, like deer on or near the highway, objects in the roadway or a host of other reasons or hazards. I suppose it differs from where you live, but in my circles, the least of all reasons motorists are flashing their headlights is to warn someone of a speed trap. I don’t think it’s a big topic of discussion in many law enforcement circles.

The main point is, when other drivers flashes their headlights at you, are you always going to know the exact reason why? If some drivers think there is a speed trap ahead and they slow down, then we are “money ahead” it seems and we have one less speeding driver out on the highway. I am not sure, but that is probably why the ruling came out, and it is no surprise and nothing new really. Thanks for asking.

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