Bill would make it illegal to ticket Ohio drivers who flash lights to warn others of speed traps

CINCINNATI -- A law proposed in the Ohio legislature could help you avoid speed traps and speeding tickets -- all with the flick of a switch.

Depending on where you drive, you may or may not be familiar with an unwritten road code: after you pass a cop who seems to be checking for speeders, you’ll flash your headlights to warn drivers coming in the opposite direction what they’re about to encounter. For some, this is common courtesy.

But this practice could also, technically, get you a ticket.

"I try to give them an indication that there is a speed trap up ahead," said Cincinnati resident Chad Phelps "Everybody needs every break they can get... tickets are expensive, especially these days."

Flashing your brights to warn other drivers isn't specifically illegal in Ohio.

A 1976 Ohio Court of Appeals ruling in Cuyahoga County stated that police officers can't rightfully penalize a motorist flashing his or her headlights to signal another motorist unless there's evidence that the driver is breaking a law. That case was cited in a 1994 Ohio Court of Appeals ruling in Lake County that upheld a motorist's right to flash headlights.

But a bill sponsored by Rep. John Becker – a Republican from Union Township – would actually legalize the practice.

House Bill 475 would allow drivers to flash their brights to warn others on the road of "dangers, hazards or vehicles of interest that the operators of the oncoming vehicles may be approaching."

"I think that would be a good thing,” said Tri-State resident Michele Muchmore.

But there are others who don't like the practice of flashing a warning to other drivers.

Cincinnati resident Deborah Gaines said it gives lawbreakers a pass. She said maybe a ticket would slow them down.

"I'm not going to warn them the police is there... So they'll get caught." Gaines said.

In other states, flashing your headlights is still not allowed.

In North Dakota and Washington, drivers are not permitted to flash their lights for any reason.

In Houston, Texas, a woman who chose to warn drivers about an upcoming speed trap spent 12 hours in jail .

And Friday, a judge in Oregon ruled flashing headlights to warn other drivers is free speech and could not be prosecuted. Before that, a citation for the practice was common. 

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