Have you ever observed a passing vehicle at night and they quickly flash their headlights on or off? To some, that is a code that means, "Slow down, there is a cop down the road." People who know the code most likely think that's a nice gesture because it can be considered a forewarning of saving yourself from paying for a speeding ticket.
Ellisville, MO is a town of 9,000 about 25 miles west of St. Louis and is what most would consider to be a bedroom community with few if any industrial areas. Their Police Department has for many years would pull over and ticket anyone for headlight flashing to warn oncoming drivers. Well someone had a problem with this policy and got ALCU involved and filed suit.
According to the Police Department's web page, the Chief posts their mission statement and reads as follows. Mission Statement: "The purpose of the Police Department is to work within the structure of the constitution, state statutes, and City Charter to enforce all laws, preserve the peace, diminish fear, and provide safe conditions within our City…"
U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey agreed with the plaintiff. He ordered a preliminary injunction against the city freezing the practice of citing drivers who flash headlights to warn. The Judge continued by saying that "penalizing drivers for the headlight flash violates their First Amendment right to free speech" maintaining it was unconstitutional. The city dropped the case and no longer cites drivers for the headlight flash that had been a city ordinance violation. Judge Autrey's other observation was that flashing actually serves a purpose of slowing drivers down, even if it's only for a few more miles. That makes sense when the core philosophy of traffic safety is to keep people safe.
The other side of this activity from the traffic officer's perspective was expressed by Sgt Ahlfinger of the Thornton, CO PD and TruSpeed user. He said, "I really don't care if drivers flash headlights, as many drivers will either not see the flashing, or be too distracted and unaware of their speed."
Traffic enforcement saves lives and continues to be an important part of keeping our streets safe, so if you haven't yet put a TruCAM, TruSpeed, or TruSpeed Sxb in your hands, you're denying yourself of the most advanced enforcement tools available today. Call 1.800.OWN.A.LTI or email us for a practical demonstration.
Read the article "Headlight flashing OK, Missouri judge says" in USA Today.