Can Flashing Your High Beams Get You a Ticket in New York?

Posted on 
March 7, 2014
By 
No Comments

Ever since headlight beam selectors began being placed on the steering column of automobiles, drivers have engaged in headlight flashing, or the practice of warning other drivers of hazards on the road or police speed traps by flicking their lights. Though a common practice, depending on what jurisdiction drivers who flash their high beams are in, their conduct could subject them to penalties.

On November 17, 2012, Missouri driver Michael Elli flashed his headlights to warn oncoming vehicles of a speed trap by police in the St. Louis County town of Ellisville. Pulled over and ticketed, Elli risked a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted. Despite contentions by the Ellisville police that flashing headlights could interfere with a police investigation, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey nevertheless recently found in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri and Elli, issuing a preliminary injunction prohibiting the town from citing and prosecuting drivers for flashing their headlights.

NY Driver Flashing Headlights
While flashing your high beams is not a ticketable offense in New York, each state carries its own rules about the practice. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

Like some other states, the Missouri federal court likened mechanically warning others about the possibility of getting ticketed to verbally warning another about the possibility of an arrest, holding that penalizing drivers for headlight flashing violates their First Amendment right to free speech. According to Judge Autrey, flashing headlights is actually beneficial to safety on the road, sending "a message to bring one’s 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."

Missouri is not unique in tackling the flashing headlights matter. Courts across the country have been faced with the same issue in recent years, with nearly all cases being decided in favor of drivers cited for the act.

In New York, the practice of flashing high beams is not illegal. Rather, New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375 (3) merely states that headlamps "shall be operated so that dazzling light does not interfere with the driver of the approaching vehicle." In a 1994 decision, the Appellate Division, Second Department held that flickering high beams do not amount to "dazzling lights." People v. Lauber, 162 Misc.2d 19, 617 N.Y.S.2d 419 (2d. Dept. 1994). In 2009, the Fourth Department declared more directly that the flashing of lights by itself is not a violation of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Code, and that stopping a vehicle based upon the driver flashing his or her high beams is illegal. People v. Rose, 67 A.D.3d 1447, 889 N.Y.S.2d 789 (2009). However, drivers leaving the State of New York should be wary of reaching for their headlight beam selectors, as the practice of flicking headlights remains a ticketable offense in many other states.

The experienced traffic ticket attorneys at Rosenblum Law have helped many drivers beat or reduce the consequences of their tickets. E-mail or call 888-883-5529 for a free consultation about your case.

Sources:

Author Bio

Adam H. Rosenblum

Founding Attorney Of Rosenblum Law

Adam H. Rosenblum is an experienced and skilled traffic violations and criminal defense attorney. Mr. Rosenblum provides expert and aggressive representation to those facing points on their drivers’ licenses and the associated fines and surcharges.

Read Full Bio

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Free Consultation

Call us now for a quick, free, and no obligation colustion with one of our attorneys.
888-883-5529

Featured Experts

Kent Ng

NYPD (Ret.)
Read More

Mike Gheller

NYPD Officer
Read More

Travis Hall

NY State Police
Read More

Related Articles

Learn more about traffic tickets and criminal matters in New York and New Jersey.

How to Pay a Ticket (non-TVB)

The Traffic Violations Bureau, an administrative court that covers NYC and Rochester, offers a convenient online payment link. For all...
Read More
November 3, 2015

Failure To Signal Lane Change

A report was published last year by the Society of Automotive Engineers that confirmed failing to use turn signals causes...
Read More
February 25, 2013

Traffic Cameras Generate at Least $3 Million Dollars Per Year

Cameras have been affixed to traffic lights throughout NY for quite some time now. Most people are even aware that...
Read More
October 3, 2012

We've Fought Over 50,000 Traffic Ticket Cases

Call us now for a quick, free, and no-obligation consultation.
888-883-5529
chevron-down Call Now ButtonFree Consult Call Now linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram