When driving down the road in Anchorage, Alaska, you notice a police car sitting by the road, slightly hidden from the view of oncoming traffic. You pass the vehicle without a problem, as you are travelling below the speed limit. Soon, however, you approach an oncoming car driving much too fast. As a courtesy to that driver, you flash your headlights, letting him or her know of the speed trap ahead.
Soon you see blue and red lights in your own rearview mirror, forcing you to pull over.
Why the traffic stop? In Alaska, a state trooper has probable cause to stop a driver who flashes his or her vehicle’s high beams, typically within 300 feet of an approaching driver.
The issue of headlight flashing to warn other drivers of speed traps has been hotly debated over the past year. As Alaska auto accident injury attorneys, we have been carefully watching this issue, fully aware of the dangers of flashing headlights in the eyes of another driver (even if it is a “courtesy warning”).
Last month, a federal court judge in St. Louis said headlight flashing is an okay practice; in fact, penalizing drivers for headlight flashing is a violation of free speech.
The town of Ellisville fought the suit brought on by Michael Elli, who had been pulled over after flashing his headlights as a warning to other drivers about a radar gun ahead. The town argued that flashing headlights could interfere with a police investigation, according to a recent USA Today article.
It will be interesting to see how this ruling affects traffic enforcement on Alaskan roadways. As auto accident injury attorneys, the aspect of this issue we find most important is the safety of drivers. If flashing headlights becomes a permissible practice, do the high beams put driver-safety at risk? If an accident is caused by oncoming high beams that were intended to be a “courtesy warning,” is the flasher at fault?
These questions and more will likely be answered soon, as the issue continues to gain much media attention.
If you have questions about headlight flashing or car accidents in Alaska, contact an experienced Anchorage auto accident injury attorney today.