Is Flashing Your Lights to Warn Other Motorists of a Police Officer Ahead Illegal in the State of Georgia?

You may have had another driver flash their lights at you at one time or another. Most of us interpret this action to mean there is either an accident or other hazard up ahead—or a police officer. Or, perhaps you are the one flashing your lights at other drivers to warn them of a potential speed trap ahead. Although the debate over whether flashing your lights to warn others of a police officer has been ongoing for many years, the short answer for residents of Georgia is that, yes, it is perfectly legal to warn other motors of “danger” ahead by flashing your lights—even if that “danger” is a police officer with a radar gun in his or her hand.

Points to Remember
If you happen to be driving at night, keep in mind that Georgia also has laws against failing to dim your headlights when approaching motorists or following another car—so do not use your high beams to warn another driver of a police officer or other danger ahead. The “lowermost distribution of light or composite beam,” is required to avoid projecting a glaring light in the eyes of an oncoming driver.

Challenges to Tickets for Flashing Lights to Warn of a Police Officer Ahead
While Georgia’s laws do not prohibit flashing your lights at other drivers, some state laws do—and many have been challenged. Back in 2014, a Missouri judge upheld the rights of drivers to flash their headlights at oncoming traffic to warn of radar and speed traps, with the legal director of the Missouri ACLU saying, “Expressive conduct is protected whenever a particular message is present and the likelihood is great that the message would be understood by those who viewed it.”

Most drivers—even new drivers—understand that when an oncoming car is flashing their lights, they should use caution. The flashing lights could signal a driver to turn on their own lights, slow down, be aware of an accident up ahead, or be aware of the presence of a police officer up ahead.
An Oregon man was ticketed—to the tune of $260—for warning other drivers of a police officer up ahead through flashing his lights. The man fought back, winning his case.

The judge in the case noted the citation was clearly a punishment for warning others of a police officer ahead, and that while the government should enforce traffic laws, they should not “punish drivers for their expressive conduct.” A New Jersey Assembly man, Ronald S. Dancer, was forced to actually introduce a bill which would make flashing high beams in the state permissible. It was noted during the discussion that flashing headlights can mean many things—not only as a warning to other drivers to slow down to avoid a ticket, but also to let other drivers known of an accident or other road hazard.

Since the ultimate result of flashing lights at oncoming traffic is a slowdown in speed, how can the practice be a bad thing? Dancer noted that “Motorists should not be fearful of being ticketed for improving road safety.” Ultimately, most states have found that when a driver flashes his or her lights at oncoming traffic to warn of a police officer ahead—or any other hazard—that action is a constitutionally protected form of communication.

Getting Legal Help in the State of Georgia
While it is not illegal in the state of Georgia to warn other motorists of a police officer, if you should find yourself being ticketed or arrested for another Georgia traffic offense or for a DUI, it is important to consult an experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney like Melanie Ellwanger, as quickly as possible. Melanie will work hard on your behalf to plea bargain any charges against you to lesser charges (with lesser penalties) or to have the charges dropped altogether. Melanie will always ensure your rights are protected, and truly has an interest in your life and your future. If you want an attorney who will thoroughly explore all your options, then help you choose the option with the least repercussions, and who will fight hard for you, contact Melanie Ellwanger at (404) 803-3105 or at melanie@hiremelaw.com.