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Is it illegal to flash your headlights to warn of speed camera?

Flashing your headlights to warn other drivers about upcoming speed cameras is a common practice among motorists. However, in some jurisdictions this act is considered illegal and can result in fines or penalty points. There has been much debate around whether headlight flashing should be prohibited and if such laws infringe on freedom of speech. This article will examine the legality of headlight flashing to warn of speed cameras in different countries.

Is Headlight Flashing Illegal in the UK?

In the UK, there are no specific laws against flashing headlights to warn other drivers about speed cameras. However, police have powers under Section 89 of the Police Act 1997 to prosecute drivers who warn others about speed traps. This covers flashing headlights as well as flashing hazard lights.

Those found guilty under Section 89 face fines of up to £1,000. The offence is due to “wilfully obstructing a constable in the execution of his/her duty”.

So while not directly illegal, headlight flashing to warn about speed cameras could be interpreted as obstructing police in their duty to enforce speed limits. Many drivers have been fined over the years for this practice.

Notable Cases

Here are some notable cases of British drivers being fined for flashing to warn others about speed cameras:

Driver Incident Outcome
Michael Mancini Flashed headlights at oncoming cars to warn about mobile speed camera van on A12 in Essex Fined £60 and given 3 penalty points in 2005
Gareth Sapstead Flashed lights to oncoming cars about speed camera in Norfolk Fined £30 in 2010
Geoffrey Crossley Flashed headlights at drivers in West Yorkshire to warn them of mobile speed camera Fined £30 plus £500 costs in 2012

These cases shows that headlight flashing is actively prosecuted by some police forces in the UK.

Is It Illegal in the United States?

In the United States, there are no federal laws against headlight flashing to warn about speed traps. However, some individual states have outlawed this practice.

Notable states where flashing headlights is prohibited:

  • Tennessee
  • Minnesota
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia

In these states, flashing your headlights is considered a misdemeanor offence. If caught, you may receive fines or points on your license.

However, the bans have faced legal challenges in some states, with courts ruling them unconstitutional.

Key Legal Cases

Case Details Outcome
Tennessee vs. Hicks Man fined $50 for flashing headlights to oncoming traffic to warn about speed trap. He fought fine as violation of free speech. Tennessee Appeals Court upheld fine in 1999. Ruled flashing lights did not constitute protected speech.
Minnesota vs. Walker Man ticketed for flashing lights to warn about speed trap. He fought ticket as infringement of free speech. Minnesota Appeals Court overturned fine in 2005. Ruled banning light flashing was unconstitutional.
Florida vs. Falcone Woman given $115 ticket for flashing headlights to oncoming cars. She fought the fine in court. Florida Circuit Court struck down state’s ban on flashing in 2012. Deemed violation of free speech.

These cases demonstrate there has been mixed rulings on the constitutionality of prohibiting headlight flashing. While some states uphold bans, others have struck them down as unconstitutional limits on free speech.

Is It Illegal in Australia?

In Australia, there are no federal road rules against flashing headlights to warn other motorists about police speed traps.

However, some states and territories have prohibited the practice:

  • New South Wales – Fine of up to $1100 under Road Rules 2014
  • Victoria – Can be prosecuted under Road Safety Road Rules 2017
  • South Australia – Banned under Road Traffic Act 1961

In Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory there are no explicit laws against headlight flashing.

But police warn that drivers could still be pulled over and questioned if caught flashing their headlights to warn others about speed cameras. They recommend drivers do not engage in the practice.

Is It Illegal in Other Countries?


There are no federal or provincial laws in Canada prohibiting drivers from flashing headlights to warn about upcoming speed traps.

However, some police departments have said they can charge drivers with “stunting” – which is operating a vehicle in a way that is dangerous to the public. This includes fines up to $2,000.

But generally, headlight flashing in Canada is legal.

New Zealand

There are no specific laws in New Zealand against flashing headlights to warn other motorists about speed cameras or police speed traps.

However, drivers could potentially get in trouble under broader road rules about “careless or inconsiderate driving”. This includes fines up to NZ$3,000.

In practice though, flashing headlights to warn about speed cameras is rarely punished in New Zealand.


There are no laws in Ireland against flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic about speed checks.

Gardai police have said it is not illegal and they have no plans to clamp down on the practice.

However, they warn drivers could be penalized if flashing high beams becomes a road safety hazard by dazzling other motorists.


Flashing headlights to warn other drivers about speed traps is not prohibited under German traffic laws.

The practice is widespread among motorists in Germany and generally tolerated by police.

However, drivers could get in trouble if flashing high beams disturbs other traffic and causes an accident. The penalty is a fine.

Should Flashing Headlights to Warn About Speed Cameras Be Illegal?

There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue:

Reasons Some Say It Should Be Illegal

  • Can obstruct police from enforcing speed limits
  • Could undermine effectiveness of safety cameras in slowing down speeding drivers
  • Drivers may rely on flashing lights warnings and not reduce speed
  • Warning other drivers about speed traps could be considered collusion

Reasons Some Say It Should Be Legal

  • Freedom of speech – flashing lights is communicating information
  • Difficult to enforce bans on headlight flashing
  • Hard to prove intent of flashing driver
  • Helps motorists be aware of speed limit changes
  • Police should focus on more dangerous traffic violations

There are good-faith arguments on both sides. Some view flashing as obstructing law enforcement, while others see it as free speech.

Much depends on context – aggressively flashing high beams in a dangerous manner merits penalties. But a quick flash to communicate useful road information to others could be seen as helpful.


Whether flashing headlights to warn other drivers about speed cameras is illegal depends on the jurisdiction. Some countries and states have explicit bans, while others permit the practice.

Where illegal, punishments range from fines to demerit points against a driver’s license. However, some bans have been overturned in court due to free speech protections.

There are reasonable debates around road safety and freedom of expression. In jurisdictions where legal, police discourage excessive flashing that could startle other drivers.

Ultimately, motorists need to know the laws in their area and proceed cautiously. Restrict use of high beams to communicate only necessary traffic warnings, not to recklessly interfere with enforcement.