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Judge Says You Can Warn Others About Speed Traps 457

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-thing-to-tweet-about-while-driving dept.
cartechboy writes "Speeding is against the law, and yes, even going 5 mph over the speed limit is breaking the law. But everyone does it, right? What about when you see a cop? Some cops are ticketing people for notifying fellow motorists about speed traps. In Florida, Ryan Kintner simply flashed his high-beams to warning oncoming cars that there was a cop ahead. He was given a ticket for doing so. He went to court to fight the ticket, and a judge ruled that flashing lights are the equivalent of free speech, thus he had every right to flash his lights to warn oncoming cars."
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Judge Says You Can Warn Others About Speed Traps

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  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:35PM (#46165641) Journal
    I bet some police officers are mighty pissed off about this ruling, but as someone who frequently drives with the lights on to warn fellow motorists of speed traps, I am pleased.
    • by lgftsa (617184) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:47PM (#46165781)

      The Australian road rules sidesteps the "warning" issue:

      http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/l... [austlii.edu.au]

        AUSTRALIAN ROAD RULES - REG 218
      Using headlights on high-beam
      218 Using headlights on high-beam

              (1) The driver of a vehicle must not use the vehicleâ(TM)s headlights on high-beam, or allow the vehicleâ(TM)s headlights to be used on high-beam, if the driver is driving:

                      (a) less than 200 metres behind a vehicle travelling in the same direction as the driver, or

                      (b) less than 200 metres from an oncoming vehicle.

                      Penalty: Offence provision.

                      Note: "High-beam" and "oncoming vehicle" are defined in the dictionary.

              (2) However, if the driver is overtaking a vehicle, the driver may briefly switch the headlights from low-beam to high-beam immediately before the driver begins to overtake the vehicle.

                      Note: "Low-beam" and "overtake" are defined in the dictionary.

      • by lgftsa (617184)

        Whoops, that was from the repealed/superseded regulations list. It's still illegal in Queensland and NSW, though. Here's the _current_ Qld rules:

        A driver must not switch headlights to high beam if another vehicle is closer than 200m in front of the driver's vehicle.

        A driver may flash the headlights briefly before overtaking another vehicle.

        Drivers must ensure that they do not dazzle other road users.

      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        This doesn't seem like a big deal, you just flash your low-beams or fog lamps instead.

      • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:17PM (#46166199)

        In the US our constitution usually trumps all other law. Look to the old "Jim Crowe" laws we used to have. They were basically like this, rules that at first appearence appeared to be meant to do one thing but what they actually did was infringe on constiutional rights. They were all struck down eventually.

        So a cop could ticket you here for unlawful use of your lights, but the very fact that the police had setup a speed trap would make flashing them legal, because you were no longer using the lights to illuminate the highway but instead making a statement and invoking your right to free speech. In our country "Free speech" is upheld as the ultimate right... not to be infringed upon accept in very dire situations. For example the "Shouting fire in a crowded theater" scenario. The police would have to prove that the flashing of your lights posed a significant hazard to the public to get the ticket to stick.

        Lastly I'd like to point out that all of this is somewhat irrelevant. The police can badger you into submission by simply ticketing you for this every time, and then taking it to court every time. Though it may get struck down, the legal battle would cost you time and money.

    • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:59PM (#46165929) Homepage
      Seems as though the police should actually want people to know about the speed traps. I mean, the ultimate goal for the police is to have everyone follow the law. If people know about an upcoming speed trap, then they'll slow down to the speed limit. If they don't know about the speed trap, then they'll continue to endanger those around them by driving too fast. </delightfully naive> Of course, we all know that what the police really want is ticket revenue. The more law breakers there are, the more revenue they get, and hence they will try to stop people from warning others to obey the law. This system is rather broken.
      • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:09PM (#46166081)

        Way back in the day, The RAC (breakdown rescue club) used to have uniformed drivers who were famous for saluting motorists - the reason they did so was not to be polite, but to warn them of upcoming speed traps - if they didn't salute, you slowed down. Of course, this didn't count as warning the motorist as the RAC man hadn't done anything... literally.

        I guess the point about trying to catch speeding drivers is that these are the ones who will speed up after they've gone past the trap and continue to be dangerous - best to catch them and take note of who they are so they can be banned after they've been caught enough times.

      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:09PM (#46166085)

        Seems as though the police should actually want people to know about the speed traps. I mean, the ultimate goal for the police is to have everyone follow the law. If people know about an upcoming speed trap, then they'll slow down to the speed limit.

        Sorry, that argument doesn't work. Supposedly the idea isn't just to make you drive the speed limit at the speed trap, it's to make you drive the speed limit *everywhere* because you don't know where the speed traps are.

      • by Etherwalk (681268) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:18PM (#46166215)

        Seems as though the police should actually want people to know about the speed traps. I mean, the ultimate goal for the police is to have everyone follow the law. If people know about an upcoming speed trap, then they'll slow down to the speed limit. If they don't know about the speed trap, then they'll continue to endanger those around them by driving too fast. </delightfully naive>

        Of course, we all know that what the police really want is ticket revenue. The more law breakers there are, the more revenue they get, and hence they will try to stop people from warning others to obey the law. This system is rather broken.

        You assume that the justice system is calibrated incorrectly. Ideally, the penalty for speeding is designed to disincentivize the behavior and is multiplied to make up for the discount from the low probability of getting caught. A 10% chance of a $200 ticket, for example, or a 5% chance of a $400 ticket. If you warn people where speed traps are, you change the chance of getting caught, which means the fine is no longer as effective a deterrent.

        This was actually a big problem with red light cameras--they made more people get caught, which made the expected penalty MUCH higher than it should have been.

      • by dcollins117 (1267462) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:49PM (#46166571)

        Seems as though the police should actually want people to know about the speed traps. I mean, the ultimate goal for the police is to have everyone follow the law.

        If the goal is to increase public safety, then yes, police should want people to drive the speed limit and reward the good citizens that warn other drivers of a speed trap. However, if the real goal is revenue generation, then the police would be upset by this behavior.

        Please note that this article is about police issuing tickets to motorists who warn oncoming cars about speed traps. I'll let you draw your own conclusion.

      • by swb (14022) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:49PM (#46166573)

        I've been told by a police officer who I know personally that much of the value behind speeding stops isn't speed enforcement or even impacting speeding generally, it's the chance to "interview" the motorist, look around at what's visible in their car, run their ID through the computer. Basically look to see if there's anything they can possibly use against you for an arrest of any kind.

        It's kind of like running a roadblock.

        If speed traps were about safety, the locations of speed traps would be places statistically correlated with high levels of accidents, especially those related to speeding. Instead, speed traps end up in places where it's easy to speed, such as at the end of long downhill sections or wide-open areas with good road conditions.

      • by SleazyRidr (1563649) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:49PM (#46166579)

        Changes in speed are more dangerous than a consistently high speed. Having everyone slam on their brakes when they go past a cop creates a huge hazard, not to mention fucking with guys like me who are just trying to drive at the limit to get to work on time.

      • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @05:01PM (#46166759) Homepage Journal

        I mean, the ultimate goal for the police is to have everyone follow the law

        Lemme just fix that for you:

        I mean, the ultimate goals for the police are enjoy an exercise of arbitrary power, to earn ticket income, and to provide an excuse for illegal search and seizure, which in turn serves as a mechanism to provide yet more income, and property.

        There you go. Cheers. :)

      • by rk (6314)

        That might have been true in the "peace officer" era, where the goal was the peaceful and safe continuation of society, where the police were partnered with their community to keep it safe. But it is not true in the "law enforcement" era, where the goal is not to keep the peace, but to catch you doing wrong to extract revenue. This is why police and the communities they operate in start to view each other in an adversarial role, to the point where some police forces are almost indistinguishable from a param

    • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:01PM (#46165961)

      I bet some police officers are mighty pissed off about this ruling, but as someone who frequently drives with the lights on to warn fellow motorists of speed traps, I am pleased.

      Careful there cowboy, keep your hat and boots on. This judge is only a district court judge and his authority only applies to his district (Eastern Missouri mostly). It is a good federal prescient and I'm sure his opinion would be cited in the defense of anybody who was being charged with flashing their lights, but it's not a settled matter. Other districts are certainly entitled to their own opinions and it's quite likely some judge will disagree, at which point we move up the chain.

      So, if you are in the Eastern Missouri District, flash away, the courts are on your side. Outside of this, tread carefully and be ready to pay the legal fees required to push it up to your district.

      • by Deadstick (535032)

        It is a good federal prescient

        If the oncoming drivers were prescient, they wouldn't need the warning.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:06PM (#46166047)

      OT, but worth it. Slashdot has announced that it will roll out beta this month and that the classic interface will only be available for "a number of months."

      Please, Please, Please don't do this!

      • by sconeu (64226)

        I just looked at the beta for the very first time... Are they serious?

        MY EYES!!!! THE GOGGLES DO NOTHING!!!!!

      • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @05:14PM (#46166969)
        I agree with you completely.
        What the hell are they thinking with the huge images wasting screen space, then forcing a link to finish reading the summary.
        This will spell the end of /. and you can quote me on that.

        How about you just add the features people have been asking for for years, and leave the rest alone? The ability to edit a comment. (Briefly) unicode. That is about it.
      • I got that banner today too. Suddenly all the posts about that shit-ass site revision mean something to me. I never had the problem other people had about getting shunted to the revised version involuntarily. I saw it once. It sucked ass. I told it to show me the readable version, and it has ever since.

        Dice is in for a shock in the hit counter when they disable the readable version of the site.

      • by Deadstick (535032)

        the classic interface will only be available for "a number of months."

        Show of hands. All in favor of Avogadro's Number...

    • by JLennox (942693)

      Traffic tickets need to cite what law was broken. Officers can't write tickets for random activities and then let a judge decide later.

      In this case it was "[a] state law that prohibits motorists from flashing after-market emergency lights, even though it's not clear that the lights Kintner used were after-market" which is clearly bullshit. It does not align with what the person did at all. I am impressed that the officer knew local code well enough to cite that specifically on the ticket.

    • by richlv (778496)

      even simpler than that. flashing the lights is often used to warn others about potentially dangerous conditions - trash on the road and so on.
      in this case, it is a warning that somebody might be on the road or that somebody might stop sharply in front of you.

  • FIRE! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thud457 (234763) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:40PM (#46165705) Homepage Journal
    I bet Waze is relieved that their business model is safe.
    • I think this is just the first step. If more and more people adopt Waze maybe the police could focus on solving actual crimes instead of waiting around to catch people speeding or arresting people for drug violations.
      • Until, of course, people start speeding like mad (because given half a chance, who wouldn't want to drive way faster than allowed, given that most roads in the U.S. seem built for sessions of NASCAR re-enactment), people crash, other people get hurt, and they/their families start wondering why on Earth there's nobody and nothing (since people hate speed trap cameras even more than speed trapping actual cops) checking to make sure people are actually going the speed limit (or within some socially accepted li

        • Re:FIRE! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @05:20PM (#46167065) Homepage Journal

          Until, of course, people start speeding like mad (because given half a chance, who wouldn't want to drive way faster than allowed, given that most roads in the U.S. seem built for sessions of NASCAR re-enactment), people crash, other people get hurt, and they/their families start wondering why on Earth there's nobody and nothing (since people hate speed trap cameras even more than speed trapping actual cops) checking to make sure people are actually going the speed limit (or within some socially accepted limit above that, as is more common).

          Reductio ad absurdum != evidence.

          Just because you may be a terrible driver with no regard for anyone but yourself, doesn't mean we all are.

          By the "logic" you've presented here, no one should have any rights, "because stupid people exist."

          Which is kinda stupid in itself.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:42PM (#46165729) Homepage

    It seems like the police periodically 'forget' or ignore things they have been told are illegal, but which they'd prefer to keep doing.

    Because they seem to periodically act as if they're legally allowed to delete the contents of your cell phone when you record them doing something illegal.

    And, really, if they can overtly ticket you for warning of their speed trap, they'll just find something else to charge you with.

    And people wonder why trust for the police is dwindling.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:43PM (#46165737) Journal

    This ruling won't stop cops from ticketing you, forcing you to leave work to appear in court, and paying the court costs after the ticket is dismissed. Cops can and do write invalid tickets simply to be dicks, and there's nothing you can do about it.

    Our justice system needs to ensure that the victim of a false accusation of a crime is made whole again.

    • I'd like to see the effects of a national law saying money collected from traffic tickets like this don't go to the city or the police department. Have it go towards paying down the national debt instead. Also, number of tickets issued isn't a metric by which police officer performance can be judged.

      Cities deciding to cut taxes but not spending, then trying to make up for it by writing tickets all over is a politician's solution. And a police union's solution I suppose. Raise taxes normally and/or cut
  • by 3vi1 (544505) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:43PM (#46165741) Homepage Journal

    A sane ruling on the matter...
    and in Florida...

    [Update;} I'm back from the window, but I didn't see neither a lake of fire *nor* four horsemen. :\

  • I didn't read this specific article, but the Judge made the comment along the lines of: Flashing your lights is a genuine part of driving safely, therefore it shouldn't be restricted or ticketed. Otherwise people might be inclined to not flash their lights when they should.

    This judge actually sounds intelligent.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:46PM (#46165765)

    I use Waze all the time (though looking for a replacement since it's been bought by Google). But the idea of community driven police/road hazard warnings is really the next step in making life better for motorists. Then I'm not warning a handful of people, I'm warning everyone for the next fifteen minutes that cares to know...

    Police always say they put up speed traps to slow people down so they should be fine with others being warned.

  • warning of danger (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:47PM (#46165789)

    Speedtraps can pose a substantial danger, especially at high speeds (folks slam breaks, cops pull into the left lane from a standstill, or like they like to do it in Mass, back up on the emergency lane to get back into the trap). That's why they are made illegal in some states [ca.gov]. And if there's a hazard down the road, you bet I should have a right to warn and be warned about it!

  • To all those not in this jurisdiction, you simply don't exist and are only a figment of your imagination.

  • In Québec / canada (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fluffy the Destroyer (3459643) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:48PM (#46165803) Homepage
    It happened too right here and the judge said something different but it was accepted. The guy receives a ticket for speeding. So he accepts it and goes away. While going away he flashes his headlights to say theres a cop and that same cop see's him flashing his headlights. He receives a ticket. In front of the judge the person tells him that a police officer is there for the security of the people (which is part of their main job by the way )and not give tickets for cash. So for helping a fellow officer, he was helping an officer doing so. The judge accepted in favor of the citizen because of what the person said made a lot of sense. Helping an officer is not illegal and by doing so his ticket was invalid.
    • by dryeo (100693)

      In BC the cops want people to know where the speed traps are, so phone the radio stations and tell them.
      Speed traps are supposed to be about slowing people down.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @03:53PM (#46165861)

    dear god what's happening to the slashdot UI???

    • by dknj (441802)

      I thought I was the only one, this interface is horrible. Once classic slashdot is disabled, I'm gone from this site.

      • To be honest I think Dice need a preview. I suggest a weeks boycott of slashdot

        I think I can last a week. If enough of us stay away then they should notice the drop in traffic. prior to forcing us into slashdot beta.

        I started getting the we are going to start forcing peope into slashdot beta notice today. Is it telling on a site where you can just hit reply and write. The link to tell us what you think is a mailto link?

        so in order to send a message to dice I think a boycott is the only way to go and

        • by game kid (805301)

          The funny part is that (after apparent months of bait-and-switch tests) they finally give that beta notice the day after nbcnews.com switches (without notice) to their mobile-frien^Wdesktop-hostile layout, with predictable and proper user response [nbcnews.com]. I personally had to delete any trace of nbcnews from my RSSes to keep my sanity.

          Desktop-hostile layouts* are bad, and not listening to users who simply do not want them, like me, is really bad.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:03PM (#46166009)
      I flashed my lights at you to warn you of the impending change.
    • by richlv (778496) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:42PM (#46166473)

      i opened it (not pulled in it yet) and went ZOMGWTFNOWAY.
      i'm not saying i will never come back after that one is implemented, but i surely will not be pleased.
      they could have just had an attempt at fixing unicode...

    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      I haven't been forced to it yet but I checked it out a couple of times and it was horrendous.
      Considering I just got told this:

      "MOVINâ(TM) ON UP. You are on Slashdot Classic. We are starting to move into new digs in February by automatically redirecting greater numbers of you. The new site is a work in progress so Classic Slashdot will be available from the footer for several more months. As we migrate our audience, we want to hear from you to make sure that the redesigned page has all the features you expect. Find out more."

      I'm guessing classic is getting the ass eventually?
      So, where should I go for the right kind of news since I won't be continuing here, any suggestions? - I particularly like the older posters here with some incredible tales of technology, systems and workplaces from eras long since lost.
      Replies suggesting reddit will be rightfully ignored.

  • I am surprised that Police accused him of warning the others with high beams. This just doesn't fly, as judge has shown.

    What happens elsewhere is that you are sometimes (lawfully) ticketed for using high beams against allowed exceptions such as:
    - only at night (dusk till dawn),
    - only if it doesn't blind other drivers or pedestrians,
    - only if there is no car coming from other direction, and no car in front (could be blinded through mirror reflection),
    - in other conditions only to warn other drivers about DAN

    • in other conditions only to warn other drivers about DANGER

      Going to fast is dangerous, hence the speed limits right? So you are flashing your lights simply to warn someone they are engaging in dangerous behavior.

  • The 1st link is to the Florida case that was resolved last year. The 2nd and 3rd links are about a Missouri case that was decided this week and only the 2nd even mentions the Florida case. The summary makes it sound like this is all about the Florida case.

    The point stands, i.e., this has been ok'd in court in 2 jurisdictions, but what in the actual fuck, Soulskill?

  • If the guy received a ticket then drove off and flashed his lights to warn other motorists of a speed trap, isn't the cop behind him? How did the cop see him flash his lights? Was it nighttime?
  • What about every other state, territory, and possession?
  • by Petron (1771156) on Wednesday February 05, 2014 @04:11PM (#46166119)

    A summer or two ago I saw a kid holding a sign that said "Speed trap ahead!". Over the next hill was a cop, mostly hidden by some bushes. The next stop light had another kid with a sign: "Speed Trap tips" and had a jar full of cash. Good show kids, good show...

  • If the authorities really want to reduce speeding, they should be happy about this. When drivers are warned of a speed trap, they slow down. Mission accomplished.
  • This is the problem with the continual militarization of police forces. They start to turn into jack-booted thugs, and flashing your lights becomes a matter of national security. Thirty years ago there probably wasn't a cop anywhere who would have given a hairy rodent's rear whether a motorist warned others about his presence, let alone actually go to the trouble of writing a ticket.

  • People flashing headlights make other drivers slow down. In fact, flashing lights make more people slow down than a cop giving out a few tickets.

    Any cop living up to the motto "To serve and protect" should be happy about this.

    Personally, I would rather see less ticketing for speeding and more ticketing for left-lane cloggers who refuse to move over and let faster traffic by.

  • The doctrine of porcine infallibility has been given a kick squarely in the bollocks.

  • This was addressed in NY state in '94. The results was that flashing headlights was not a crime.

    The funny thing is people don't flash if they think your brights are on anymore. They keep their brights on for a few seconds. That is a crime.
  • Full disclosure: I would rather the police not be allowed to ticket you for flashing your lights to warn others. That said, depending on the time of day, could flashing lights still get you a ticket? If it's during the evening, the law requires that you have your lights in working order, and on at all times. So technically, you'd be breaking the law by flashing your lights, no? Of course this is a very strict reading of the law...

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