Is It A First Amendment Violation To Get Pulled Over For Flashing Your Lights To Warn Others Of Cops?

from the *flash*-*flash* dept

As most drivers (hopefully?) know, it’s pretty standard practice for drivers to alert oncoming traffic to the presence of a waiting police car by flashing headlights at them, once they’ve passed the police car themselves. Ron Rezendes alerts us to a potential First Amendment case, in which a guy is claiming that police violated his First Amendment rights for pulling him over and issuing a citation because he flashed his lights at others.

“Campbell’s lawyer, J. Marc Jones, claims his client’s First Amendment right to free speech was violated. “The flashing of lights to communicate with another driver is clearly speech,” he said.

The effort is actually a class action on behalf of others who have also been pulled over under such circumstances. It certainly does raise an interesting question in terms of what constitutes “speech” under the First Amendment.

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Comments on “Is It A First Amendment Violation To Get Pulled Over For Flashing Your Lights To Warn Others Of Cops?”

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Meek Barbariansays:

Re: Re: Re:

If we take away the police’s extra money from these traps, cops won’t be able to buy their children their favorite movies and cartoons. Those poor children will have to turn to piracy to watch their favorite shows. This piracy, in turn, will harm the poor corn farmers of America. Since corn is used in virtually everything, prices will go up across the board. Due to an overburdened economy, the government will have no choice but to raise taxes. More taxes means more lobbyists pushing for even worse laws. More laws will lead to more people helping each other avoid breaking those laws, starting the cycle anew.

All because you selfish bastards wouldn’t think of the children!


Re: Re:

The ‘crime’ is likely improper use of high beams or lights. Which is illegal. Not all ‘speech’ is protected.

Would it also not be a crime to witness a robbery and warn the robbers that you saw the cops coming down the street? (not involved in the robbery, just warning the crooks to leave the area b/c of the cops coming)


Re: Re: Re:

I think that would be aiding and abetting. However, in the case of flashing your lights, you are flashing them in the general vicinity, not specifically warning criminals. If you wanted to make a comparison to robbery, it would be more like, going into a crowd and telling everyone that a certain area had a high police presence. If that crowd happened to contain robbers, they may avoid the area that you specified so as to not get caught.


Re: Re:

It’s time we talked about a problem that is plaguing this country. I’m speaking of course about authoritah piracy. Authoritah piracy costs police officers hundreds of chances to hassle people who have committed minor violations of the law a year removing one of the primary factors that attracts rejected college applicants to the force. Authoritah piracy is a scourge upon the country that must be stopped.



this is an old argument that holds no water, due to the fact the police themselves in some states list the location of drunk driving traps on their own web sites. you can’t pick and choose what type of “trap avoidance” speech is acceptable.

Also, web sites listing locations of regular speed and Drunk driving locations are not illegal. so unless we get a “length of the cord” type argument we got with infringement, these 3 acts are essentially the same, varying only in technology and distance from the trap.

Ima Fishsays:

Re: Re:

Agreed. The point of speeding laws is to get drivers to slow down. By publishing where the speed traps are, people will slow down in those areas. Thus, the point is fulfilled.

This Florida jurisdiction has it backwards. To them the point of speeding laws is not to get drivers to slow down. The point is to encourage speeding, so they can write more tickets, and get more money.

Our country is going to shit.



There is no problem.

How could one possibly state that someone is “helping” another avoid being caught for the crime of speeding when the first someone would need to know, definitively, that the second person was actually speeding would they not?

Speech is communication, in any manner.

Flashing your lights while driving can mean a good number of different things. For example:
There is a speedtrap.
There is a parked cruiser.
There is debris in the road.
There is an accident ahead.
There are dangerous conditions ahead.
You left your coffee cup on your roof.
Your lights are out.

The first is my personal favorite. Speedtraps. I crested a hill on a freeway where the other side is, effectively, a blind until you’re there. There was a line of cruisers marked and unmarked, there were a half-dozen pull-overs within a half mile and I was in a pack. The deceleration that occurred, whilst averaging 75+, was nothing short of dangerous. Being a defensive driver by nature, I hammered the gas into the passing lane from lane three of four. There were no hits but it was rather close. I got the ticket from that pack as a result.. yes it was a choice but the folks previously behind me had more of one as a result.

Not one mother fucker flashed lights and it was several miles between exits.

If someone makes a law preventing speech that can serve to protect my person than that law is unconstitutional. Speeding or not.

A person may simply not be aware they’re going a bit fast and/or headed for danger – what’s a friendly reminder to pay attention? Free speech that.

IMO: It is not a police officers right to have unimpeded access to money and it is the right of a civilian to try to prevent others from forfeiting that money – if they see fit to communicate. They should not face the prospect of a fine for communication.


Re: Re: Re:

And how exactly do you know that the oncoming car is speeding?

You don’t. The only time people flash their lights like this is to warn about police/fire/ambulance activity ahead.

But the vast majority of time it is for police activity that you are warning people about.

The ‘crime’ actually is improper use of your high beams since most people just flick the turn signal stalk rather than twist the lights on and off.

And yes that is a ‘crime’ or ‘infraction’ or whatever the legal definition is.


Re: Re: Free Speech

You’ll have to explain how flashing lights makes it easier to speed. Do the photons give cars a boost or something?

If the person that got flashed was speeding then stopped speeding as a result of said flashing wouldn’t the person flashing the lights actually be inducing the cessation of a crime as opposed to inducing a crime to be committed?



However, flashing lights isn’t always about warning about a cop ahead. There are many other legitimate reasons:

– Flashing a Truck driver to let him know he can pass

– Warning of an accident ahead

– “Hey, you forgot your headlights and its 11pm!”

While its possible that he was warning for cops, in my travels (68mi commute to work, one way for many years) the majority seems to be safety over “speed trap!” How do you qualify intent?


Re: Re:

Old thread but had to comment.

You qualify the people who are warning about speed traps, versus the courteous drivers flashing for other reasons, when they flash their brights to more than just one line of cars that can see them. Where it’s obvious they’re warning multiple groups of cars.

Like someone mentioned before, yeah cops are there for our safety/crime prevention, but this kind of violation is just to make drivers less likely to warn because of the chance of a ticket. Basically, it’s to ensure they can continue to write tickets and get their revenue (which basically goes towards a brand new cop car every year it seems like where i live).



Speech that helps someone avoid police entrapment – ie – a hidden officer – hidden vehicle – hidden scanner. Lots of police like to sit just over the crest of a hill, often times in dangerous locations, just to get that one extra ticket issued. Who cares if they cause a 5 car pile-up pulling out to chase the person going 1mph over a ridiculously low speed-limit in a non residential area.



that’s the false assumption. there is no way that you, or any other driver can quantifiably measure the speed of other drivers going in the opposite direction. thus, you can’t argue that they are break the law by speeding above the posted limit. so there is absolutely NO way to prove any criminality in this situation. conclusion by judge spot on imo. speech protected! hoooray!


slow down

Don’t flashing headlights help public safety officials achieve better public safety (i.e. I slow down when someone flashes their lights at me and I’m driving over the speed limit). I’m not sure what the fuss is about. Are we so bored in paradise that we bicker over who gets to promote public safety? This place gets weird sometimes.


Re: slow down

Dazzling lights laws certainly have their place.

If he was flashing his brights at oncoming motorists at night, that is not helpful in the least, and quite hazardous.

Likewise, if he is turning lights off and on at night, that is equally hazardous, though moreso for himself.

If it was the middle of a bright sunny day and his lights flicker, I see no danger in that.

Another ACsays:

Re: Re: slow down

Not sure what driving laws are like in the U.S., but in Canada it’s the law to flash your lights at the driver in front of you when you intend to pass them at night.

No one ever really does it, but that doesn’t make it a hazard either – I’m not sure where you’re coming from with that opinion.


Re: slow down

I totally agree with jduhis on this. If the goal is public safety it’s Ok to flash, since they do slow down. If the goal is revenue, flashing is a bad thing. The cops could accomplish the same thing as the civilian headlight flashers just by sitting there with the cherries on [instead of the radar gun], but there isn’t any money in that, is there?


Maine does it right....(Re: Re: slow down)

Actually I think the state of Maine does a pretty good job in that respect. I’ve often seen police cars (state police ones usually) parked in a median with no one actually in the car.

People see a police car and usually slow down. There isn’t anyone there to actually hand out tickets, but this has the added benefit of not wasting police manpower.

From a revenue generating standpoint it’s a complete failure. From an improving public safety standpoint, I think it’s remarkably enlightened.


Re: Re: Maine does it right....(Re: Re: slow down)


Usually while traveling on I95. Everywhere from Portsmouth to Bangor. Of course sometimes there is an officer there (usually around Labor Day, July 4th, etc. whenever there’s an increase in drunk driving) just to keep you honest.

They have a more enlightened method of handling ‘Work Zones’ (areas where people are working on the road) too. If there are people actually working they post those “Work Zone ahead / fines doubled” signs. When the workers go home they take down or cover them up. I’ve seen equipment and pylons, but no workers. They’ve covered up the signs, so it’s no longer a ‘work zone’. One night, when there were people actually out working on the road, there was a police car with all his lights on parked about a mile before the area. This would cause people to slow down and helped keep the workers safe.

New York state on the other hand….. I’ve seen “Work Zone / fines doubled” signs posted apparently at random. A work zone starts, no workers, not even a barrel or a pylon. One to ten miles later “Word Zone Ends” sign. The only ‘worker’ was a police cruiser hiding somewhere in that stretch of road.

Maine – speeding/ work zones: policed to keep everyone safer.

New York (apparently Florida) – speeding / work zones: policed to maximize revenue.


Re: slow down

LMAO, you don’t understand jduhls, its not fair to the police. They make money on tickets and that money then gets spent on supplies and pay for the police departments. So now supply shops and the officers have the money. Those people spend it on other things and the economy thrived because of it. This obviously warrants a $200000 minimum fine for all the people potentially warned in the history of his/her driving and the natural pyramid effect that follows. There is no way the people who didn’t get ticketed would ever have spent their money otherwise and besides, its the protected right of the police to make us safe. Don’t you see, flashing your lights to help others is stealing.

Kevin Littlesays:

Re: slow down!

The fact that you condone speeders regardless of the speed is a huge concern for me. If everyone is warning others of cops then we promote speeding. So what if a child runs out in the street and gets killed by someone that can not controthier vehicle due to speed. COPS provide documented proof of those that do not drive safely on our streets. Certain speeds even mean suspenion and further determits to speeding. If everynoe condones reckless driving then that is what you are going to get, reckless driving. Use your head. Instead of trying to find a way to drive unsafe, think of others.


Re: slow down

It is quite interesting ‘flashing lights’ have become an issue/problem….why? Any rule governing the use of lights on vehicles by the occupant, and, the occupant is capable of ‘flashing’ them (either manually or timed automatically).
Either way the operator does the ‘flashing.’ Each case is different (or differently perceived by the authorities) to take offense to something they interpret as an offense?? Did it compromise SAFETY? Was anyone injured or killed directly attributed to the use of flashing lights?

This is where the facts are gathered which mandate some sort of action (law/ordinance/etc.) improving ‘safety’ with clear understanding regarding WHEN, WHERE, HOW, WHY an operator operates their ‘flashing’ lights.

That’s gonna take some time here in Alabama, especially Montgomery Capitol.

A Dansays:

Flashing lights

There are other legitimate reasons to flash your lights. It’s a general warning or signal to other drivers. If they don’t have their lights on at night, it’s not unusual to flash your lights. If there are hazards like deer ahead, it’s not unusual to flash your lights. And if there are police ahead, the same. It’s more of a general warning to other drivers. And warning other drivers to be more careful/vigilant should not be against the law.


part of the problem

Is that the police are interpreting a law that band the addition of flashing emergency lights to a vehicle to retaliate against people warning against the speed traps.

Nearly all of the tickets that have been contested in court have been thrown out. The FHP has told officers to stop giving tickets out for this activity until a judge rules on the legality.


Lights on, Law

I have flashed my lights to warn others of an accident ahead on a two lane road, to let them know to turn their fucking lights on, as well as when I have seen police sitting with their radar guns out near the end of the month (quota time). I also had a truck that had shitty wiring and my lights would just shut off from time to time, forcing me to quickly pull and hold back the manual lever for the high beams and drive stick with the other arm. The second sentence has nothing to do with story. Not that anyone uses smoke signals a lot anymore, but if flashing your lights to warn of entrapment by the law is not considered protected speech, then your friend warning you that the “law” is coming to raid your herb garden by using smoke signals should not be protected either.


Re: A regional thing?

I don’t see it’s often in Midwest, but I attribute it to living in a big city:

– People rarely speed in residential areas (and it is unheard of a cop setting a speed trap in such an area)

– It is ineffective to flash where cops are actually speed-fishing – on highways – because it’s hard to notice an oncoming vehicle flashing on a divided highway.

Another reason why I don’t warn drivers this way while driving on a highway: my flashing will most likely be misunderstood by a driver in front of me, and in Chicago there is always a driver in front of me ­čÖé

John Fendersonsays:

Re: Re: A regional thing?

32, actually. I’d just never seen or heard of this done for this purpose before. Is that so hard to believe? The only times I’ve seen headlights flash is to signal that a car’s headlights are off when they should be on, to tell them that their nigh beams are on when they should be off, to tell them to move over to the slow lane, or to tell them that it’s safe to merge in front of you.


FTA: “But, Roberts said, ‘warning oncoming traffic that there are law enforcement officers ahead allows a speeder to slow down until he passes the officers ? and then he starts speeding again. In that sense, they’re (headlight flashers) essentially interfering with legitimate law enforcement activity.'”

And warning someone else about the presence of cops doesn’t force them to speed. The speeding is still an act by the driver.

Not to mention these are traffic citations. It’s not the same as tipping drug dealers off about an impending bust.



“warning oncoming traffic that there are law enforcement officers ahead allows a speeder to slow down until he passes the officers ? and then he starts speeding again.”

Pulling over the speeder and writing him/her a ticket requires the speeder to slow down while the officer sits behind him – and then he starts speeding again.

The difference? Oh yea.. ticket revenue.


The Florida Statute at issue:

Quite frankly, it seems to me that there is a material difference between “flashing lights” as used in the statute and manually flashing one’s headlights, the latter not being even mentioned in the statute.


Re: What about the jerks .....

Certainly! Even here in Texas, flipping off a LEO has been found(in court) to be an expression of free speech, not the ‘disorderly conduct’ charge the person was charged with. Bear in mind, you can test this if you have LOTS of time on your hands to spend on the side of the road/back seat of the patrol car, and you will likely leave with a ticket- just not for flipping ’em off.


>Is this a regional thing? I’d never heard of this meaning for flashing headlights before.

I think it is a case of dying out rather than being regional. People who were on the road a lot used to use the flashing light signals. Because it involved interstate travel it wasn’t really regional.

Generally truckers use one flash of the lights as a sign of recognition or to say thanks. Truckers used to use two or three flashes as a signal for a cop ahead. CB radios reduced the need. Now GPS and computer baby sitters that log or govern truck speed have greatly reduced the number of trucks that actually speed, and therefore you don’t see nearly as many truckers signalling for speed traps as you did 30 or 40 years ago.

The nature of speed traps has also changed. In the 1950’s and 60’s speed traps were a pretty big deal to set up. They usually involved at least two police cars with one anchored in one spot for an extended period of time. Modern speed traps are much more mobile. With current technology, by the time you get a signal about a speed trap, it is likely to be gone.


Wait until someone you know gets hit by a speeding car..

In Australia, it is illegal to warn someone about a speed trap, just like it is illegal to warn someone of an immenent drug bust.

We also use ‘flicking the headlights’, and it is (illegally) used to warn of speed traps, but it is also used to warn drivers of a hazard for oncoming drivers.

Ie, if there is a crash up the road you will ‘flash’ all oncoming traffic and they will know something is wrong.

To use it just to warn of a speed trap devalues the effect of it’s rightfull use.

You are also “interfering with a police investigation” and ‘perverting the corse of justice’, that is why it is illegal (even in Australia) to warn of police, but not illegal to flash traffic to warn them of a clear hazard that should be approached at a lower speed.

People are going to speed MORE if they are warned or know they will be warned when the police are present.

It’s always “revinue raising’ until some time in your life when a loved one gets hit by a speeding car, and ends with permanent brain damage, and is fully non responsive (essentually a coma) and got to celibrate her 12’th birthday in a come and in intensive care, (where she still is)..

and you morons are whinning about the police trying to do their job, all because of some so called ‘right’ you think you have that you believe goes beyond the rule of law, or social standards.


Re: Wait until someone you know gets hit by a speeding car..

in high school, My GF got into an accident when the car ahead of her slammed on her breaks after seeing a speed trap. even though my GF at the time was going the speed limit, there wasn’t enough time to stop.

I consider speed traps a hazard, and as such, I warn of them.


Re: Wait until someone you know gets hit by a speeding car..

I was hit by a speeding car, spent 18 months in a wheel chair and lost my left leg. That doesn’t mean that I think charging someone for flashing their lights is right. Neither do I use my experience to bully people who have a different opinion.
FYI, I’m pro flashing lights. ‘Perverting the course of justice’ only to the extend that the justice system defines justice.



If I say to someone, “lets go blow up congress” I somehow doubt freedom of speech will protect me (unless congress is the name of my pet balloon).

Sorry – WHAT?!?!?!?

Are you seriously trying to claim that asking someone to join you in committing a crime is the same as telling someone that they should stop committing a crime?

You certainly live up to your name, “Old Fool”.



Some time in the past 10 years, I read a document from the Federal Highway engineers(from a .gov site), or some name like that, about how people who drove 5-10mph over the limit, were less likely to be in an accident than those who drove exactly the at the limit. Those who drove under the limit were the most likely to be in an accident.

So, by strict definition of “speeding”, most speeders are better drivers. By a practical definition, “mild” speeders are safer drivers and extreme speeders are dangerous.

According to that document, 60yo and over were barely more likely to be in an accident than 16-17 year olds. How they get such huge discounts for being “old”, I have no clue.


Re: Speeding

I 100% agree with this research! Speed limit is something that depends on multiple variables, some of them are invariant (road condition, proximity of schools etc.), but some depend on an individual (driver’s experience and kind/state of a vehicle). I don’t advocate setting individual speed limits – it is just unfeasible, but I wouldn’t curse myself when I drive 10 mph over limit (15 on empty highways): I’ve been 34 years behind the wheel (since 12), I drove in Moscow and Rio and I did not have a single accident (not that I’m immune, so touch wood). In addition I have a very good car (don’t like to be accused in bragging, therefore won’t mention the make) that extremely responsive and has 0 blind spots.

Again, I don’t want to change the laws, yet it is ridiculous to state that I and 17-year old on a father’s old car present the same danger to safety even if I’m driving 10 mph faster.

Saying that, there are many other rules that I utterly respect: it costs nothing to abide and there is no benefit from breaking them. Signaling when changing lanes; keeping distance; turning headlights when raining; full stop at the sigh to name a few.

Once I mentioned that, I refuse to comprehend why the majority of cars still have blind spots – it is not a rocket science and can save many more lives than speed traps.


Re: Speeding

I truly believe that if you are 60 and over. U should have to take a written test and driving test every 3 to 5 years. Ive noticed that older people have been causing alot of these accidents do to,going deaf,blind, or just to turn their stearing wheals. Shit, i dont know how many times i’ve.almost got in a wreck because an old person coudnt control their car. Also.believe



The real reason the police do not want others to be warned of their speeding is due to revenue, plain and simple. When you flash your lights, you are reminding others to pay attention to the legal posted speed and to be safe. Police WANT/NEED to catch people speeding to make up what that county, city, etc has lost in other revenue. If it were a safety issue, then the police would welcome people reminding others to pay attention to the posted speed.


Great comment on the source article, referring to aiding and abetting, basically boils down to this:

Speeding is a civil infraction, not criminal

The person that is flashing their lights has no clue oncoming traffic is speeding

Flashing is a “heads up”, not a specific “there’s a cop here”

Kinda sums up my feelings about it.. I mean, how can the person flashing know what anyone coming at them is doing? They don’t. It’s a friendly heads up. “Hey, maybe you should be careful..” etc. There is no written code that says 2 flashes for a cop, 3 for a tree in the road.


We had the same in the UK.

Driver flashes another driver to warn of police with speed camera, Person flashing drivers to warn is prosecuted for “perverting the course of justice”.

As already stated, the only reason is loss of revenue.

IF the police are that concerned about speeding then why are they not pulling over the driver to educate them? Pull driver driver over, talk to them & then fine them.


Impending Traffic Hazard

Back in the 80’s, my father (successfully) argued, in court, that he wasn’t warning drivers of the POLICE presence, per se, but of an Impending Traffic Hazard resulting from the cars in FRONT of them suddenly slowing down in response to seeing a cop ??a natural instinct.

So even if YOU’RE not speeding, you still deserve to be notified about the guy in FRONT of you, who’s about to slam on HIS brakes for no apparent reason.

(Besides, aren’t you /supposed/ to slow down and make way for first responders? One could also argue that it’s your civic responsibility to ensure the officer’s safety by encouraging other drivers to drive more gently as they crest that hill, round that bend, or whatever…)


Flashing Warnings

When I was somewhat younger (many years ago) one of the through streets below my house was a notorious speed trap. One day I put a sign up warning drivers of the speed trap (after I’d been busted of course) and got caught at that too. I received a pretty harsh lecture but that was all. I always wondered though, wasn’t I doing something useful by actually getting traffic to slow down? Other than income for the city, that’s why we have speed limits right?

People slow down when they see the police. It’s a reflex. I’ve seen conservative drivers doing 5 MPH below the speed limit hit their brakes when they saw a cop, and maintain an even slower speed after.

When I lived there (at least 6 years ago) the worst road in Eastern Pennsylvania for dangerous traffic was probably the 309 bypass between Philadelphia and Montgomeryville. Possibly worst in the state. (Now me, I’d spent the previous 8 years in So. California. So for me it was a walk in the park, but….) The worst spot on the 309 was the area around the junction to the PA Turnpike. Partly it was just the volume of traffic entering and exiting, but mostly it was the fact that the exchange design sucked wet farts out of dead pigeons. (They’ve fixed that since I left.)

Some “we have to look like we’re doing something” politician decided the answer was to pick a random day each month, line a bunch of local cops up along that stretch, and hand out tickets. They always let people know ahead, understand. Published in the local paper and radio announcements and so on.

The first day they did this it decided to rain. Not a heavy rain, more like a drizzle. Just enough to wet the pavement. Now anybody who pays attention to these things knows that short of, say, ice, the worst road conditions happen during the start of the first rain after a dry spell. Grease and oil and rubber have been accumulating on the surface for weeks or months, the rain comes along, the oils float on top of it and you get very slick conditions until there’s been enough rain to wash the gunk away. When it’s a drizzle it doesn’t wash away for a long, long time. And it’s deceptive. Unlike snowy and icy conditions, it’s not obvious that the road is likely to be slick.

So here we are, the first day of this nifty plan, with the rain drizzling down and cops lined up and people doing, well, probably their usual speeds for the most part… maybe a few MPH slower. And they’d come barreling around the curve and see 13 gazillion cop cars and hit the brakes.

If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

The gods must have been smiling on us (collectively) that day because as far as I know there were no serious accidents, maybe none at all. But after a few hours of this somebody added two plus two and got four and pulled the cops off the bypass.

Because the reason for the laws and the job of the policemen is not to catch people doing things wrong. It’s to keep people safe. And while I still think the effort was misguided (even on clear days — I just like telling the story :), I have to concede that the people who set it up were at least aware of that enough to announce ahead of time that it was happening, and when. And to pull the cops off the road when it became obvious they were just exacerbating the safety issue that first day.

I don’t know if the flashing headlights thing is a free speech issue per se, but: if it is illegal to warn somebody of a speed trap, then it seems to me the only reason for the speed trap is to catch people breaking the law rather than to prevent safety problems. And the only reason I can see that being the case is to make money from the fines.

One might even be able to argue entrapment.

sigh Our justice system has lost its way.


What about..

Usually the high beam is on the same stalk as turn signals. I’ve had troubles flashing the high beams by accident when using the turn signal to change lanes. So now you can probably get a ticket for this too?

And, at least in Mass, it’s common practice to flash your high beams as an indication to a driver waiting to make a left turn to go ahead and turn and you will give them space. I do this all the time. So now maybe they will want to ticket this too? Bah.

Cops have ticket quotas to fill, and the more tickets they write the better it looks on their records. Tickets and arrests are the prime way for rating police officers – they don’t give a crap about helping people anymore. If you are a cop and don’t write enough tickets (meet your quota) you’ll be out of a job fast. You could be doing things that were actually helping the situation or helping people, but that doesn’t count anymore.


Re: What about..

BMW’s cruise control is even worse: the stick is just below the beam switch, same shape, a bit shorter. I embarrassed myself many times until I developed the motor memory: when I wanted to decrease the speed – same movement / different stick – push towards the driver – and flashed high beams instead. So if I wanted to slow down behind a car, the other driver might think that I was arrogantly flashing to force him out of the left lane.


From the “Marginal Revolution” blog (Can’t reach it now – “502 bad gateway”, so copying from Google Reader)

The 55 mph speed limit was a vain attempt by the Federal government to reduce gasoline consumption; initially passed in the 1974 Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act the law was relaxed in 1987 and finally repealed in 1995 allowing states to choose their speed limits. Highways and cars are safer today than in the 1970s and on many highways speed limits were increased to 65 mph. Higher speed limits are often safer because what is worse than speed is variable speed, some people driving fast and some driving slow. When the speed limit is set too low you get lots of people who safely break the law and a few law-abiders who make the roads more dangerous.

Unfortunately vestiges of the 55mph limit remain, in part because police like the 55mph limit which lets them write tickets at will whenever they need an increase in revenues. John Carr at the National Motorists blog gives a particularly egregious example from Massachusetts:

The speed limit on Route 3 is 55. The speed limit used to be 60?.It was reduced by executive order in 1973 to comply with the national speed limit. When the national speed limit was repealed in 1995 the highway commissioner ordered the low limit retained?

It gets better. Route 3 was completely rebuilt a decade ago. The design speed for the project was 110 km/h (68 mph). The design speed is like a warranty: nothing in the road design requires a driver to go slower than 68 mph, not even on a wet road at night (the design conditions).

The average speed is not far from the design speed. The 85th percentile speed, which is supposed to be used for setting speed limits, is around 75 mph. A little over by my measurement, which found 1% compliance with the speed limit.

Eventually the absurdity of the 55 mph speed limit sunk in and in 2006 MassHighway traffic engineers recommended a speed limit increase. State Police vetoed the change, preferring the 99% violation rate that let them write tickets at will. Police have no legal role in setting speed limits. Somebody in the Romney administration weighed the risk of losing ticket revenue against the risk of being blamed for accidents. Police won.

After engineers lost that fight people began to worry about the high accident rate on Route 3. The state hired a consultant to do a Road Safety Audit. The consultant?s report blamed the low speed limit, among other factors, for the high crash rate. The report explicitly recommended raising the speed limit.

Three years later, state officials have not followed the advice of their engineers, their consultant, or 100,000 drivers per day. State police are still out there running speed traps and helping keep the road as dangerous and profitable as they can.

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10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
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10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
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