Categories: General
      Date: Apr 17, 2009
     Title: Ask the Lawyer

Question: My husband and I were driving on Highway 87 and we saw a DPS squad car. I told my husband to flash the headlights to warn oncoming cars. He said no because it’s illegal. Is it illegal to flash headlights at oncoming cars to warn them that a police vehicle is nearby?



"Is it illegal to flash headlights at oncoming cars to warn them that a police vehicle is nearby?

"Question: My husband and I were driving on Highway 87 and we saw a DPS squad car. I told my husband to flash the headlights to warn oncoming cars. He said no because it’s illegal. Is it illegal to flash headlights at oncoming cars to warn them that a police vehicle is nearby?

Answer: No. Texas does not have any traffic laws that makes flashing one’s headlights to warn oncoming vehicles that a police vehicle is nearby illegal. The flashing of headlights serves many purposes. It may warn of other "dangers" like motor vehicle accidents or an animal in the roadway. Flashing headlights is a non-verbal method for communicating with other drivers. It may mean, "Dim your bright lights," "I’m about to pass you," or "There’s a speed trap ahead."

Surprisingly, most law enforcement officers in the Dallam/Hartley County area state that their main goal when cruising out on the roadways is not to write traffic tickets for speeding. Their main goal is to slow traffic down by their presence. Anyone from the Texas panhandle can attest that on some days the wind blows so hard as to make outside activities difficult at best, and it is hard to imagine law enforcement officers pondering, "How many speeding tickets can I write today?"

Flashing headlights has a collateral benefit of actually slowing drivers down. Most drivers instinctively tap their brakes when they see headlights flashed at them. They next scan the area for what the situation is, whether it’s a police vehicle ahead, an accident or an animal in the roadway.

The Texas Transportation Code, Title 7 Vehicles and Traffic, Subtitle C Rules of the Road, Chapter 547 Vehicles and Equipment, details the requirements and rules for all vehicles operating within the State of Texas, including passenger vehicles, emergency vehicles, police vehicles and even tow trucks. Drivers are required to have two operating headlights on their vehicle, and one on each side of the front of the vehicle. Texas law states when headlights (headlamps) must be used, but does not state when they must not be used.

Certain areas require the use of the headlights no matter what the time of day or weather conditions, such as Highway 87 within the State of New Mexico in the area known as the "Safety Corridor." Further, Texas state law requires drivers to slow down when an emergency vehicle is stopped on a roadway. Flashing one’s headlamps at oncoming traffic when an emergency vehicle or police vehicle is sighted gives a "heads up" to traffic that slowing down is not only prudent, but required. Emergency responders and law enforcement are generally on the roadway for a reason. They may be directing traffic around a traffic accident, assisting a stranded motorist or even writing a traffic ticket. Whatever the reason, their safety is more important than anyone’s need to travel faster than the posted speed. Slowing down is required because of the statistics of injuries caused when drivers travel past emergency vehicles at high rates of speed. The law requiring drivers to slow down is meant to minimize injuries and damage to property.

The key to avoiding being stopped by a law enforcement officer is not to obstruct traffic, cause a traffic hazard, create a nuisance or some other activity that may be a traffic violation. Many people who flash their headlights to warn of hazards, or ask permission to pass a slower vehicle, may not flash their headlights to warn of a potential speed trap because they feel it is wrong; however, the decision to warn other drivers is a personal choice. Determining the reason a person has for flashing their headlights would likely take up too much time by officers monitoring traffic. If a driver commits a traffic violation in conjunction with flashing their headlights, a traffic stop may be justified, but the traffic ticket should not include a violation for "flashing headlights" unless it created a hazard to oncoming traffic.

Safely flashing one’s headlights may benefit the overall flow of traffic in the long run because of its affect on drivers, causing them to slow down. If oncoming drivers are traveling at above the posted speed limit, slowing them down may avert traffic problems. Capt. Stout of the Dalhart Police Department frequently states, "Just drive the speed limit and keep yourself and others safe." There is nothing wrong with traveling at the posted speed limit, making flashing headlights unnecessary.

For more information on Texas traffic laws see the Texas Government Code. This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice.

Answer: No. Texas does not have any traffic laws that makes flashing one’s headlights to warn oncoming vehicles that a police vehicle is nearby illegal. The flashing of headlights serves many purposes. It may warn of other "dangers" like motor vehicle accidents or an animal in the roadway. Flashing headlights is a non-verbal method for communicating with other drivers. It may mean, "Dim your bright lights," "I’m about to pass you," or "There’s a speed trap ahead."

Surprisingly, most law enforcement officers in the Dallam/Hartley County area state that their main goal when cruising out on the roadways is not to write traffic tickets for speeding. Their main goal is to slow traffic down by their presence. Anyone from the Texas panhandle can attest that on some days the wind blows so hard as to make outside activities difficult at best, and it is hard to imagine law enforcement officers pondering, "How many speeding tickets can I write today?"

Flashing headlights has a collateral benefit of actually slowing drivers down. Most drivers instinctively tap their brakes when they see headlights flashed at them. They next scan the area for what the situation is, whether it’s a police vehicle ahead, an accident or an animal in the roadway.

The Texas Transportation Code, Title 7 Vehicles and Traffic, Subtitle C Rules of the Road, Chapter 547 Vehicles and Equipment, details the requirements and rules for all vehicles operating within the State of Texas, including passenger vehicles, emergency vehicles, police vehicles and even tow trucks. Drivers are required to have two operating headlights on their vehicle, and one on each side of the front of the vehicle. Texas law states when headlights (headlamps) must be used, but does not state when they must not be used.

Certain areas require the use of the headlights no matter what the time of day or weather conditions, such as Highway 87 within the State of New Mexico in the area known as the "Safety Corridor." Further, Texas state law requires drivers to slow down when an emergency vehicle is stopped on a roadway. Flashing one’s headlamps at oncoming traffic when an emergency vehicle or police vehicle is sighted gives a "heads up" to traffic that slowing down is not only prudent, but required. Emergency responders and law enforcement are generally on the roadway for a reason. They may be directing traffic around a traffic accident, assisting a stranded motorist or even writing a traffic ticket. Whatever the reason, their safety is more important than anyone’s need to travel faster than the posted speed. Slowing down is required because of the statistics of injuries caused when drivers travel past emergency vehicles at high rates of speed. The law requiring drivers to slow down is meant to minimize injuries and damage to property.

The key to avoiding being stopped by a law enforcement officer is not to obstruct traffic, cause a traffic hazard, create a nuisance or some other activity that may be a traffic violation. Many people who flash their headlights to warn of hazards, or ask permission to pass a slower vehicle, may not flash their headlights to warn of a potential speed trap because they feel it is wrong; however, the decision to warn other drivers is a personal choice. Determining the reason a person has for flashing their headlights would likely take up too much time by officers monitoring traffic. If a driver commits a traffic violation in conjunction with flashing their headlights, a traffic stop may be justified, but the traffic ticket should not include a violation for "flashing headlights" unless it created a hazard to oncoming traffic.

Safely flashing one’s headlights may benefit the overall flow of traffic in the long run because of its affect on drivers, causing them to slow down. If oncoming drivers are traveling at above the posted speed limit, slowing them down may avert traffic problems. Capt. Stout of the Dalhart Police Department frequently states, "Just drive the speed limit and keep yourself and others safe." There is nothing wrong with traveling at the posted speed limit, making flashing headlights unnecessary.

For more information on Texas traffic laws see the Texas Government Code. This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice.

Answer: No. Texas does not have any traffic laws that makes flashing one’s headlights to warn oncoming vehicles that a police vehicle is nearby illegal. The flashing of headlights serves many purposes. It may warn of other "dangers" like motor vehicle accidents or an animal in the roadway. Flashing headlights is a non-verbal method for communicating with other drivers. It may mean, "Dim your bright lights," "I’m about to pass you," or "There’s a speed trap ahead."

Surprisingly, most law enforcement officers in the Dallam/Hartley County area state that their main goal when cruising out on the roadways is not to write traffic tickets for speeding. Their main goal is to slow traffic down by their presence. Anyone from the Texas panhandle can attest that on some days the wind blows so hard as to make outside activities difficult at best, and it is hard to imagine law enforcement officers pondering, "How many speeding tickets can I write today?"

Flashing headlights has a collateral benefit of actually slowing drivers down. Most drivers instinctively tap their brakes when they see headlights flashed at them. They next scan the area for what the situation is, whether it’s a police vehicle ahead, an accident or an animal in the roadway.

The Texas Transportation Code, Title 7 Vehicles and Traffic, Subtitle C Rules of the Road, Chapter 547 Vehicles and Equipment, details the requirements and rules for all vehicles operating within the State of Texas, including passenger vehicles, emergency vehicles, police vehicles and even tow trucks. Drivers are required to have two operating headlights on their vehicle, and one on each side of the front of the vehicle. Texas law states when headlights (headlamps) must be used, but does not state when they must not be used.

Certain areas require the use of the headlights no matter what the time of day or weather conditions, such as Highway 87 within the State of New Mexico in the area known as the "Safety Corridor." Further, Texas state law requires drivers to slow down when an emergency vehicle is stopped on a roadway. Flashing one’s headlamps at oncoming traffic when an emergency vehicle or police vehicle is sighted gives a "heads up" to traffic that slowing down is not only prudent, but required. Emergency responders and law enforcement are generally on the roadway for a reason. They may be directing traffic around a traffic accident, assisting a stranded motorist or even writing a traffic ticket. Whatever the reason, their safety is more important than anyone’s need to travel faster than the posted speed. Slowing down is required because of the statistics of injuries caused when drivers travel past emergency vehicles at high rates of speed. The law requiring drivers to slow down is meant to minimize injuries and damage to property.

The key to avoiding being stopped by a law enforcement officer is not to obstruct traffic, cause a traffic hazard, create a nuisance or some other activity that may be a traffic violation. Many people who flash their headlights to warn of hazards, or ask permission to pass a slower vehicle, may not flash their headlights to warn of a potential speed trap because they feel it is wrong; however, the decision to warn other drivers is a personal choice. Determining the reason a person has for flashing their headlights would likely take up too much time by officers monitoring traffic. If a driver commits a traffic violation in conjunction with flashing their headlights, a traffic stop may be justified, but the traffic ticket should not include a violation for "flashing headlights" unless it created a hazard to oncoming traffic.

Safely flashing one’s headlights may benefit the overall flow of traffic in the long run because of its affect on drivers, causing them to slow down. If oncoming drivers are traveling at above the posted speed limit, slowing them down may avert traffic problems. Capt. Stout of the Dalhart Police Department frequently states, "Just drive the speed limit and keep yourself and others safe." There is nothing wrong with traveling at the posted speed limit, making flashing headlights unnecessary.

For more information on Texas traffic laws see the Texas Government Code. This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice.