New Florida Laws
6:30 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Headlight Speed Trap Warnings Now Legal

FREEDOM TO FLASH: It is now your right as a Floridian to flash your high beams as a speed trap warning to oncoming cars.
FREEDOM TO FLASH: It is now your right as a Floridian to flash your high beams as a speed trap warning to oncoming cars.

Motorists who notice radar-equipped police cars hiding behind bushes and under overpasses, and then flash their high-beams to warn other drivers, haven’t always been rewarded for their concern.

On the contrary. A lot of them have gotten tickets for those little acts of kindness and roadway solidarity. But, just maybe, no more.

A new state law that took effect Tuesday specifically legalizes the headlight warning and eliminates what lawyers called a spiteful misreading of the former law.  A traffic lawyer named J. Marcus Jones told Associated Press writer Bill Kaczor that drivers were being brought to court under a statute that was only supposed to keep people from installing law enforcement-style flashing lights on their cars, not for flashing the lights they already have.

But Jones, who represented a driver in a minor landmark case, is worried that the new law still doesn’t go far enough for the absolute protection of headlight speed trap warnings:

Jones said police still can use other sections of Florida's traffic code to ticket motorists for flashing their headlights. Those provisions include prohibitions against using high beams within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or within 300 feet of a vehicle ahead. The new exception for flashing headlights doesn't apply to those parts of the traffic code, Jones said.

If he can get (Pinellas County Circuit Judge  Kevin) Carroll to change his mind, Jones then could seek class-action status and try to get refunds for an estimated 2,400 motorists who paid fines for flashing their high beams between 2005 and 2010.

Seeing handwriting on the wall, the Florida Highway Patrol had already stopped issuing tickets for headlight flash warnings by the time the Legislature passed the bill in March of 2012.

But the use of headlights are only one item in a law chock full of new rules and procedures for the Department of  Motor Vehicles. Read the AP story (here's the link again)  to find out about free ID cards for the homeless, some new specialty tags (including one for retired governors) and the agency's new freedom to get in touch with you by email.

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