Warning Fellow Drivers of Speed Traps Shouldn't Be a Crime

Police in Ellisville, Missouri, are no longer allowed to ticket good Samaritans warning fellow travelers of upcoming speed traps, thanks to an order from a U.S. District Court judge.

It seems that a man was issued a citation in 2012 for “obstructing justice” by flashing his headlights to alert other drivers to the presence of a speed trap. The charges were eventually dropped, and the police chief warned his officers to stop giving tickets of this nature, but the ACLU stepped in to make sure the ordinance is taken off the books for good.

It seems there are lots of places around the country that have laws against people warning others of speed traps. A man in Texas was in court last month battling a similar ticket for holding a sign reading, “Police ahead.”

I don’t normally side with the ACLU, but they have my full-fledged support in this matter. It’s not only ridiculous, but an infringement on our right to free speech to make it illegal to warn others of cops with radar guns sitting around bends in roads with ridiculously low speed limits.

Besides, if law enforcement is really just concerned with keeping roadways safe, then they should be happy that more people are slowing down and driving more cautiously. Who cares what made them slow down? Oh, it must be about money. That doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it?

Flashing your headlights to other cars as a way to warn others about a speed trap is just the right thing to do. Only a jerk would want complete strangers in another vehicle to get a ticket. It’s not an obstruction of justice -- it’s the kind thing to do.

Do you flash your lights to other cars when you see a cop in a speed trap?


Image via Jeremy Sternberg/Flickr

crime, in the news, law

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nonmember avatar Katherine

I'm conflicted about this, but ultimately I disagree. Let me elaborate:

There is a stretch of road near my house which lends itself to speeding (it’s a rural area between a suburb and a large city.) Every once in a while there will be a trooper out there with a radar gun. Whenever I’m on that road I make sure I slow down because I know he might be out there.

If people are allowed to go stand on the side of the road with signs the trooper’s ability to enforce the speed limit will be severely hindered. If there’s someone with a sign, I’ll slow down. If there isn’t anyone with a sign, I can continue on at whatever speed I feel like.

Not knowing whether there’s a cop around the corner encourages people* to slow down, even if there isn’t really one there. If we get to the point where people only slow down when they know a cop is actually present, we either need to hire more cops or be prepared to deal with a lot more speeders.

*I know some people are either going to speed or follow the speed limit no matter what, but I think most people are like me in this aspect.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I don't warn people. If you're speeding in town then you're an ass who deserves a ticket.

Zenezzy Zenezzy

In some states you are required to alert oncoming traffic of police activity so that they slow down.  

victo... victoriaherring

I completely disagree. You don't know if they are there to catch people speeding or looking for a specific car. What if someone's child had been kidnapped and they were looking for a certain car and you warned them there were cops ahead.. They would turn and get away with that child and possibly never be seen again. The right thing to do is to not speed.. Don't have a reason to be pulled over and then you won't have to worry about it.

Frost... FrostyMelted

Free speech. Plain and simple.

nonmember avatar Jamie

People love to hide behind freedom of speech. You can't announce you want certain members of the government killed, bomb on a plane, fire in a theater. Look you may think a speed is too slow but that is because different makes and models of cars can take certain bends at certain speeds before rolling over or loosing control. Stopping distances will also very. A semi cannot take turns like a smart car. you can't post several speed signs for everyone. What the hell is wrong with following the speed limit. Damn the stupid highway and road safty board that commissions studies to make our roads safe for all. They didn't randomly assign a speed limit.

nonmember avatar Rich

The 1 thing California does right is to outlaw speed traps.
There must be adequate signage that radar may be in use for that stretch of road and that the speed limit has been determined by an extensive and expensive survey of average speeds there.

LeeshaE LeeshaE

I love how the author throws out there that she doesn't often agree with The ACLU, really not often, because these are just a few things they stand for, quality among the races, sexes, religions, and sexual orientation. They actively fight against things like child pornography. Stand up for voting rights and against censorship. I am sure Jenny doesn't believe in their pro abortion and anti death penalty stance but to outright say you seldom agree with them speaks fathoms of her character.

the4m... the4mutts

I completely disagree! I DO want excessive speeders to get a friggin ticket! This is my family's safety we're talking about.

And while we're on the topic, yes, speed traps in CA are illegal. But we have a MAJOR problem with people posting on fb when they have to go through a DUI checkpoint.

THAT should be illegal! Assholes warning drunk drivers about them is just the shittiest thing you can do. I dont care who it is, friend, family, the neighbor I hate... anyone driving drunk, or in excess of speed deserves what they get.

nonmember avatar Laura S.

Flashing your lights should not be illegal. The police do not know why you flashed your lights. I have flashed my lights to get drivers to slow down when I know there are kids nearby. Should that be illegal?

There are people who send text messages to illegal immigrants in Arizona anytime they see police doing checks for driving violations. Should that be illegal?

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