A judge in Missouri ruled that motorists can now legally flash their headlights to warn other drivers of speed traps. The right to do so, federal judge Henry E. Autrey ruled, is protected by the First Amendment.
The lawsuit stems from a 2012 incident in which Ellisville resident Michael Elli was pulled over by an officer who noticed that Elli was blinking his headlights, warning other drivers “of RADAR ahead.” Elli himself had just passed through the speed trap.
Elli pleaded not guilty on the charge; if convicted, he faced up to $1,000 in fines and points on his license.
At a hearing last year, Ellisville officials claimed that “flashing headlights could interfere with a police investigation.”
Autrey, however, refuted the point by ruling that flashing headlights is simply a reminder for people to bring their driving “in conformity with the law – whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.”
Although the charges against Elli were dropped, the American Civil Liberties Union sued on his behalf, claiming that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
Numerous other towns and cities across the country have laws that prevent drivers from warning other drivers of speed traps. The ACLU has expressed hope that the Ellisville ruling will send a strong message to lawmakers throughout the country.
Tony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU, said that headlight flashing prompts people to drive responsibly. He noted that “people really do slow down when you flash your lights at them, and that’s safer for everyone.”
Sources: Fox News, www.consumerist.com
Photo Source: www.wptv.com