Speed Traps – Do You Flash Your High Beams to Warn Other Drivers? [POLL]
I always felt you were doing the right thing when you saw a radar trap and tried to warn the oncoming drivers.
One good turn deserves another.
But it turns out, believe it or not, that while there’s no specific statute on the books prohibiting you from doing so, police will still pull you over if you get caught.
And while you can probably get the ticket thrown out, good luck with that trying to spend the time to do so.
Upon seeing a radar trap on the other side of Broad Avenue in Englewood last week, Don Quinn did the neighborly thing by flashing his lights at oncoming cars to get drivers to slow down and avoid tickets.
"I was doing a good deed," said the Harrington Park reader.
An Englewood cop disagreed. He pulled Don over and gave him a ticket for violating a motor vehicle law that carries a $54 fine (but no points) for "improper use of high and low headlight beams." The statute — NJSA 39:3-60 — states that headlamp beams should be "so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver … during times when lighted lamps are required."
"Well, you can't flash your lights when we're shooting radar," Officer Carlos Calderon explained, according to Don.
For generations, traffic cops have been angered by motorists who try to thwart their attempts to catch speeders and other lawbreakers. For their part, good Samaritans argue that flashing their headlamps amounts to little more than free speech. Given that the fines for improper headlight use tend to be modest, such conflicts seldom make headlines or reach law books. But from time to time appellate courts in Missouri, Florida, New Jersey and elsewhere have been called upon to clear the air.
So when he got home, Don carefully checked the statute, but he found no reference to police shooting radar or anything else. He did find something else, however — an appellate court ruling that covered the case of a Freehold motorist whose similar good deed on a Middlesex County roadway in 1997 turned into a two-year legal ordeal.
In 1999 "the statute (cited above, was appealed stating it) was never intended to prohibit a motorist from warning oncoming motorists that a speed trap lies ahead." The law only defines the intensity of headlamps and their distance from oncoming traffic, said the court
"If the object of radar enforcement is to get other drivers to slow down," said Tim Franco, president of the state Police Traffic Safety Officers Association, "and if flashing your lights at oncoming traffic achieves that goal, then there isn't much reason to issue a ticket."
But this raw data doesn't explain whether any of the alleged violators were trying to warn others about radar traps or similar enforcement activity. In some jurisdictions, 39:3-60 is issued as a non-point warning for a more serious violation.
Bottom line: There is no specific New Jersey law that prohibits motorists from flashing a warning about speed traps. But that doesn't necessarily mean Samaritans should flash with abandon.
Because the chances are, you’ll still get a ticket if you’re caught.
And who needs the aggravation of getting stopped by a cop and trying to explain to him or her just what the statute means.