Flashing lights

May 26th, 2012 at 10:30 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It is against the law in New Zealand to flash a car’s headlights to warn other motorists of a speed camera, but a Florida court has ruled it is okay.

United States judge Alan Dickey has ruled that using car lights to communicate to other road users is engaging in behaviour protected by the US Constitution.

Superb. I love the First Amendment.

In New Zealand, a motorist is not allowed to flash car lights `dazzling, confusing or distracting other motorists’.

The fine for an offence of this kind is $150.

I think most motorists find that having car lights flashed at them is not dazzling, confusing or distracting. To the contrary it focuses them on ensuring they are driving safely and at a legal speed – so is a good and welcome thing.

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31 Responses to “Flashing lights”

  1. wikiriwhis business (4,111 comments) says:

    The US constitution is being completely over run by Congress and the Obama administration

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-fmQ13bqDw&feature=related

    Rand Paul speaks about the NDAA bill and what it means to Americans and probably soon to us.

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  2. Will de Cleene (485 comments) says:

    Flashing lights is a good way to signal to drivers that the road ahead is hazardous for whatever reason; stealth cop, livestock on the road, car accident ahead. Only in NZ would telling people to Mind the Gap be illegal.

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  3. peterwn (3,294 comments) says:

    This has been an issue almost as old as motoring itself. In the early days the law tended to be against motor vehicles (eg the ‘red flag’ rule) and many motorists got done (allegedly) unfairly by the police. One of the original objectives of the AA was to lobby for a better deal for motorists and provide a lawyer for motorists unfairly charged (at that time all offences including parking too long went to court – there were no instant fines). This is why AA patrolmen on motorcycles (at least in UK) saluted when they passed a car bearing a AA badge. Failure to salute meant there was a cop ahead. If the AA patrolman gave a positive indication to motorists, he could be done for obstructing police in the execution of their duty, a charge which police could lay against a motorist flashing headlights.

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  4. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    Only in NZ would telling people to Mind the Gap be illegal.

    It’s not illegal here.

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  5. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    This is typical government behaviour. Hell if you flash your lights at a car that is heading toward a speed camera it might slow down and not be ticketed – we don’t want that… we want it to be ticketed… and not slow down….. It’s about $afety … yeah sure….

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  6. peterwn (3,294 comments) says:

    will and tristanb – the issue here is obstruction of police, not warning of hazards. A stealth cop is not a road hazard despite what some people may think.

    Hopefully with the massive upgrading of railway stations in Auckland and Wellington, a ‘mind the gap’ warning should not be necessary.

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  7. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    peterwn

    A stealth cop is not a road hazard despite what some people may think.

    I disagree, I was driving along doing my thing one day and a car going quite quickly was passing me (I was on the motorway). At that time we were rounding a slow sweeping corner and just as he was flying past me a cop on the side of the road partially hidden behind a bridge pillar came into view. The other driver slammed on his brakes and veered into my lane in the process almost forcing me to drive into the hidden cop as I swerved partially out of my land to avoid the other driver who was now under heavy brakes. The cop set chase on me and I had to explain why I was apparently ‘driving at him’ ! I noted to him that his hidden location was the cause of the mayhem although I did acknowledge that if the other driver hadn’t been speeding it wouldn’t have ended that way.

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  8. Nookin (3,452 comments) says:

    It is somewhat ironic, is not it, that if you see some idiot travelling at a manicallyexcessive speed and flash the lights to scare the driver into slowing down, you are probably doing the travelling public a service.

    However, if there is a speed trap just around the corner, you are obstructing the police in the performance of their duty. Their duty being to keep traffic speeds down.

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  9. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    peterwn

    Realistically anything that makes people suddenly change their speed while in traffic is a road hazard. Stealth cops certainly have that effect.

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  10. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    Nookin

    Right, so making them slow down without a ticket is not good…. but having them fly past a hidden camera at speed collecting a fine while they continue with their excess speed is OK…. Ass about tit mate.

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  11. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    It’s interesting to note that when speed cameras were introduced the Police did a trial which was to establish the average speeds so as to set the tolerance. However when they did that they used marked vehicles parked in highly visible locations. IE: Drivers would have seen them and slowed down resulting in an ‘average’ which was actually the average while aware cops were monitoring speed. Then they setup hidden cameras….

    Sure there is a war on road behaviour and I have no problem with that. I’ve only ever had 1 speeding ticket in 30 years of driving so I have no personal axe to grind here. But I think having hidden cameras which issue fines without slowing the driver at that time has got nothing to do with $afety. If you want to effect driver behaviour long term then policing needs to be seen and punish speeding drivers when they are speeding – not just send them a ticket weeks later.

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  12. Yoza (1,901 comments) says:

    If I think someone is speeding and I know there is no speed trap I flash my lights, but if I know there is a speed trap I never flash my lights.

    I like the idea of people who drive like maniacs facing large fines and the possibility of losing their licences. More speed cameras placed strategically throughout NZ is a policy I would support.

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  13. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    Yoza

    The problem is that demerit points are not awarded for camera fines unless they are excessive and result in a court case. The fines might slow some people down but think about it… The guy driving his $150,000 Porsche at 120-130 getting the occasion few hundred dollar fine… how ‘re-educated’ is he? How about the guy driving the stolen vehicle, how concerned is he that ‘that car’ is going to be a party in a fine dispute a few weeks from now.

    So slapping them with a ‘high speed drivers license fee’ isn’t exactly about $afety. In the UK camera fines have demerits, it makes no sense that we don’t do the same here.

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  14. Maaik (33 comments) says:

    In the UK, they are “safety cameras”. They are like fleas on a dog, seems there is one every 2 km on the motorways. They are painted bright yellow, and there are lines on the road marking where the photo will be taken. No attempt is made to hide them.

    This approach (and the fact that, if snapped, you lose points) has led to people to slow down whenever they see a camera. While that may be the opposite of what our cash-hungry police and local councils want, it is actually what should happen. The idea that we can educate people to drive at the speed limit using the very light stick of fines has been proven wrong – just drive around a bit to see that it is not working. But in the UK it seemed (I would love some real figures) to lead to a slowdown and safer roads.

    Note that the UK solution is not a carrot – it is still a stick – but that the stick is in plain view. A bit like a parent that sets the rules and uses the stick when the rules are broken, vs a parent that beats up the child whenever he feels like it. (The anoraks would argue for a carrot, bat that is another matter.)

    And don’t get me started on quotas for police officers…..

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  15. peterwn (3,294 comments) says:

    burt – so 50KPH signs are a hazard because drivers may slam on the anchors.

    The answer to this problem is to use hidden cameras to detect speeding, shonky overtaking, failure to stop at stop signs etc. The owner of the vehicle can then make the driver cough up any fine and ‘wear’ any demerits involved. The driver is then unaware he has been ‘copped’ and hence takes no dangerous evasive action.

    The road traffic policing regime as it stands has the general support of Parliament including both major political parties. If people do not like this they should support a party who promises to downgrade road traffic policing. Then watch the road toll skyrocket.

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  16. tvb (4,487 comments) says:

    Flashing lights is a good way to get people to slow down. But NOOOOOO. We want the money let em speed and we will catch them.. But we are police we can speed by putting ON flashing lights. There is more hypocrisy on the issue of speed than sex.

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  17. elscorcho (154 comments) says:

    Let’s look at it this way.

    A car travelling at 120kmh is more dangerous than one travelling at 110kmh, and more dangerous than one travelling at 100kmh.

    If my flashing my lights at them causes them to slow down, it reduces risk, increases overall safety, and has no negatives (it also avoids a crime being committed).

    So it prevents crime and increases safety. And we want it to be illegal?

    The answer is to STOP FOCUSING ON SPEED and focus on better on-road communication…
    1. We enforce red lights far more harshly
    2. We enforce indicators far more harshly
    3. We enforce keeping left unless overtaking on ALL MULTI LANE ROADS INCLUDING 50K ZONES far more harshly
    4. We make putting your lights on at all times mandatory

    All of these will help improve safety

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  18. elscorcho (154 comments) says:

    Someone said
    “will and tristanb – the issue here is obstruction of police, not warning of hazards. A stealth cop is not a road hazard despite what some people may think”


    So let’s say my mate is a nutcase and wants to stab his cheating girlfriend. I stop him doing so. In stopping him I prevent the police eventually being able to arrest him for murder.

    I’ve obstructed the police by preventing a crime, have I?

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  19. AG (1,830 comments) says:

    Hang on a second. How do we know “it is against the law in New Zealand to flash a car’s headlights to warn other motorists of a speed camera”? All we have is a journalist’s claim that the offence of flashing car lights in a “dazzling, confusing or distracting other motorists” covers this circumstance. And as DPF himself points out, “most motorists find that having car lights flashed at them is not dazzling, confusing or distracting” … I’d say that offence would cover things like flicking from low-to-high beam at night, or tailgating someone and repeatedly flashing your lights at them. A single/couple of flicks as someone approaches you just doesn’t meet the basis for the offence.

    So where is the evidence that, in fact, people are committing an offence here? Why just accept the journalist’s claim at face value?

    (Also – even if the cops have warned/ticketed someone for this practice in the past doesn’t mean “it is against the law” … unless and until someone can point to a court case that has upheld such ticketing. Can anyone?)

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  20. peterwn (3,294 comments) says:

    AG – If someone does take such a ticket to court, the cops could always lay an ‘obstruction’ charge instead and this puts the offender’s licence at possible risk. So people ticketed with this would just pay up knowing their licence stays safe (unless thyey have too many demerits).

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  21. AG (1,830 comments) says:

    peterwn,

    I don’t understand what you mean by an “obstruction charge” … can you expand?

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  22. Steve (North Shore) (4,579 comments) says:

    peterwn
    “the issue here is obstruction of police”
    Obstructing the Police from what? making money by hiding behind parked cars on a sunday morning at 10am with one car every 3 minutes using the road? The pop you for doing 58kph in a 50 kph area.
    That is money making and nothing else

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  23. Griff (8,092 comments) says:

    The bloody flashing signs they have taken to placing on tight corners are an equal hazard
    There is enough warning where they are placed and the corner speed is an adviser not a speed limit
    With the changes in speed limits that are proliferating it is becoming more and more dangerous to drive. Your attention becomes fixed open the signs and not the road ahead. In particular when the road is new to you
    I do not believe that police could successfully charge you with obstruction as the purpose of speed cameras is to slow down traffic and flashing your lights has the same affect. That is why they charge you with dazzling the incoming driver. as has been stated hidden camera’s are a road hazard of equal or more danger to road users as flashing lights

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  24. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Camera cops are revenue cops….they do nothing for road safety at all….IRD wannabe scum. “Spedophiles”…as they are referred to by real cops…..the name fits.,

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  25. Dexter (305 comments) says:

    If your going to make up a story at least make it plausible.

    There are no cops in speed camera vans, so I very much doubt that any such nickname applies.

    And anyone inattentive enough to be caught by a clearly visible speed camera clearly is a danger traveling at the speed limit, let alone above it. It’s a stupid tax for stupid drivers, that works as a subsidy for the rest of us.

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  26. Brian Harmer (687 comments) says:

    As Tristanb said, it is not illegal in NZ. I recall many years ago, someone was charge with obstructing police or some such. The judge ruled that for the charge to succeed,there had to be an unwarranted presumption of guilt in respect of the person who was warned, and threw it out.

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  27. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    peterwn

    burt – so 50KPH signs are a hazard because drivers may slam on the anchors.

    Well sure if the 50KPH sign suddenly jumps out from behind a bush with a big “got ya” smile on it’s face – then yes it’s a hazard. I think 50KPH signs are pretty static and in logical places where they are both predictable and warranted. The ones on my journeys are in the same place I saw them last time as far as I can tell.

    I tell you what though – the day I see one with one hand on it’s dick and the other hand on it’s wallet leaping out from behind a bush because I was doing 53.21786 kph I might agree with you that like hidden cops 50KPH signs are a hazard to traffic flow.

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  28. RRM (9,998 comments) says:

    RRM was travelling alone and at pace up SH1, in his magnificent Carmine Red Triumph 2.5PI, early one Saturday morning not that many years ago.

    Cop parked up near Hunterville in his brand new VE SV8 gave me a “SLOW DOWN, CHUMP!” flash of his headlights… immediate check of the speedo revealed a speed the cop could have legitimately spun around and ticketed me for. And he could have so easily done it driving the car he had…

    Damn revenue-gatherers and their revenue-gathering, eh? ;-)

    But yeah, what dexter said 3 posts up, seconded.

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  29. GJM (64 comments) says:

    >The road traffic policing regime as it stands has the general support of Parliament including both major political parties. If people do not like this they >should support a party who promises to downgrade road traffic policing. Then watch the road toll skyrocket.

    Both parties support speed cameras because the 10s of millions of dolalrs they bringin. The introduction csot was paid for within 9 months of starting – including the camera cost, vehicles, staff, etc. AFAIK, the annjal net return on after opex is around 300%

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  30. Alan Wilkinson (1,885 comments) says:

    “AFAIK, the annjal net return on after opex is around 300%”

    I presume you mean in terms of tax revenue. There is no adequate assessment of road safety effectiveness given all the confounding impacts. The attempt to justify concealed cameras was utter statistical crap as I demonstrated at the time and was confirmed by an Australian statistician after Auckland University statisticians were prevented from going public with similar conclusions by their administration.

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  31. Alan Wilkinson (1,885 comments) says:

    Summary: crap policing supported by crap journalism.

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