Highway flashers pay the price

2012-06-15 06:55

UK drivers will have to think twice about warning other road users of potential speed traps as authorities clamp down on flashing headlights.

It’s certainly an offence in South Africa; in fact some years ago there was a blitz in Johannesburg against such neighbourly behaviour.

According to the London Daily Mail, in an anti-speeding campaign, Lancashire police handed out 20 tickets for “misuse of headlights”.


Lancashire traffic officer Antony Gray, said: “Potentially they are putting lives at risk. Flashing your lights at someone may make them slow down for a second but it will not make them change their habits. Speeding motorists need to be spoken to so they will seriously consider their irresponsible driving.”

Critics, the Mail reports, say it's just another a money-making scheme and that handing out a R400 fine "creates a legal and moral minefield".

The Automobile Association condemned the practice and warned that drivers might be reluctant to warn others of dangerous faults on their vehicles.

An AA spokesman said: "I think it's a legal and moral minefield. A lot of people will have a lot of different views on this and what is social behaviour and anti-social behaviour.

“It is very difficult. If someone is shoplifting and someone else tells them a store detective is about, is that aiding and abetting or stopping them stealing?"

What do you think of the law against flashing headlights in SA? Is it a crime to warn somebody that they're committing a crime? Share your thoughts in our Readers' Comments section below!

  • thomanim - 2012-06-15 08:08

    there's nothing wrong with drivers warning each other about the dangers ahead.

      Zing - 2012-06-16 21:00

      I won't help someone avoid a speeding ticket. If I get one, I deserve it. We complain daily about the level of crime in the country, but we want to allow speeding, and help others get away with it? No! If people are allowed to be lawless on the roads, they will try it in other places too.

      faizieishlah.shabalala - 2012-06-17 06:59

      Another colonialist plot to stop us from being idiots on the road.

      Ebon - 2012-06-19 09:45

      @zing: Flashing your lights at someone does not "allow them to get away with it" as you put it. It cautions them to correct their behaviour. At the end of the day the only question of relevance, even for the authorities is: "Did the offending driver correct their behaviour". If that can be achieved equally effectively without the need for a fine, then surely that is the better option. If someone never sees the speed trap they won't slow down. They will keep on speeding until a few weeks later when they get the fine in the mail. Maybe then they'll adjust their behaviour for a while, or maybe they'll just get mad. However a driver who sees a speed trap will slow down, and will be more cautious for a while. A driver who regularly sees speeding traps will likely never get into the habit of speeding. This is how the traffic authorities should be using their mandate. SA has a huge road death problem because of exactly this issue. Traffic police simply DO NOT CARE about correcting behaviour. They care ONLY about taking in revenue. Which is, when you stop to think about it, an absolute abuse of their authority. By that logic, flashing your lights to warn others of the presence of speed traps can only help the situation, regardless of what those buffoons in the traffic deparment would like to have us believe...

  • thando.gqabaza - 2012-06-15 08:22

    this is bull

      Press - 2012-06-21 10:16

      How can flashing lights be any worse than hiding behind a bush and then taking bribes.

  • malebo.chadi - 2012-06-15 08:52

    This is bullsh#t! What if I claim I was trying to clean my windscreen and pulled the wrong lever by mistake?

      Gregory - 2012-06-16 21:35

      If you claim to do what you were not actually doing, you are then choosing to lie ... and so the speedster has inadvertently drawn additional people into the web of law-breaking and deceit ... so the big slide down the slippery slope of immorality is perpetuated - with each one no doubt having a very plausible justification for their wrongful. behaviour

      DragonKnightRider - 2012-06-17 14:19

      If you get confused with those to levers, then you are a danger on the road. What else are you getting confused with...? The petrol and brake paddles...?

      planetdonovan - 2012-06-17 17:05

      one has to consider whether speed trapping as used in south africa is moral, since it is clearly just a money-making exercise, not a road safety measure. therefore, is reducing its effectiveness an act of immorality?

      theo.konings.9 - 2012-06-18 08:46

      @malebo.I am with you on this.Speed trapping is just a money making racket.Here in Cape Town our D A masters (And I voted for them by the way) have cameras everywhere and the speed limits change from 120 to 90 to 80 to 70 to 60 and back within such a short time you can't keep up.I regularly get a ticket in the post and have to pay as I have no option, but I never see traffic officers on the road and I see people and of course taxi drivers breaking the law with impunity and never see them pulled over.Its a scam and I will flash when I want to.

      theo.konings.9 - 2012-06-18 08:51

      @dragon.Don't be so condescending and its peddle by the way not paddle.

  • Vardion - 2012-06-15 09:41

    The point of traffic cameras and speed traps is to protect the motoring public, not collect extra funds from them. Traffic enforcement should be highly visible and focused on high-risk areas where forcing speeding drivers to slow down can save lives. It shouldn't be done by sneaking around in bushes and jumping out at people. If all they're interested in is making money then they can just add the cost of cleaning up the wrecks to our car licenses and remove all the speed limit signs. If flashing your lights to warn people that they're entering a high risk area or that they should check their speed is illegal then someone has seriously missed the point.

      thian.vanderwalt - 2012-06-16 21:19

      Dear Vardion, if you live in South Africa you must be spending your whole life indoors. Speed traps are invariable situated where people are travelling on open roads with good visibility, but there are always hiding places like trees or overpass bridges for them to hide. Traffic officers are to lazy to patrol roads in order to make traffic control visible as a deterent to reckless drivers. The last time a saw moving visible traffic enforcement was when we still had provincial traffic cops under the previous dispensation, and even then a large part of their time was spent hiding to operate speed traps. At least they had the intelligence to wait over the crest of hills where drivers would overtake on solid barrier lines. I don't think the current encumbents in the traffic departments have the intelligence to realise that speed traps do not contribute to road safety but only breeds resistance in drvers to traffic enforcement. You should rather concentrate your time and money to educate the public.

  • Cyrus - 2012-06-15 10:22

    So if I tell someone not to rob a small shop because they are going to get caught I will be committing an offence? SO i should just let them go and rob the small shop anyway?

      mogo.naut - 2012-06-15 11:08

      From what I've gathered from this article - YES.

      eugene.meyer1980 - 2012-06-16 13:58

      Cyrus, Im with you on this that its complete bs that flashing your lights to warn other drivers about speed traps is wrong. But, the difference between flashing your lights at a speeding driver, and telling a would be robber that they should not rob a store because they will get caught, is that the speeding driver is already commiting the crime where as the robber still has to commit the crime. None the less, I will still warn other drivers of road blocks and speed traps.

      Zing - 2012-06-16 20:57

      If you tell someone not to rob a store because you know there's a policeman waiting . . . now there's a different story. Now you're an accomplice, aren't you?

  • colin.ashby.35 - 2012-06-15 12:07

    stopping a crime before being committed is always good

  • isaac.petlane.7 - 2012-06-15 12:16

    You need first to train your JMPD on ethical bahavior before you start even thinking of a thing like this. As long as they are more interested in collecting bribes this is never going to stop" lights for life compaign on" pambele....

  • bruce.anderson.31149 - 2012-06-15 12:28

    The cops should focus their attention on drivers not indicating, cars and trucks driving without lights at night or when it is raining. They want to be nice and comfy sitting behind a bush (which is incidentally also illegal)trapping unsuspecting drivers to fill their coffers.

  • ernie.dewitt.1 - 2012-06-15 12:38

    Nothing wrong with flashing lights, better than hiding behind a bush or taking a bribe - but we all know that the JMPD, especially, is a law unto themselves

  • vernon.dodo - 2012-06-15 12:39

    It's called aiding and abetting potential criminals. You might be helping them avoid a crime this time, but what about the next time? And the next? And the next? See where I'm going with this? Let criminals and potential criminals be dealt with by the proper authorities. Us, as civilians, do not have that authority.

      grusque.walusz - 2012-06-15 12:59

      Hi Vernon, you cannot stand by and watch while a crime is committed, irrespective of how stupid laws become. If someone grabbed your stuff I will do my best to stop them buddy! The same with traffic, if there are potential dangers on the road I flash, and as for speed camera's/cops, it should be my right to warn people that their beahvious is dangerous.

      Roland - 2012-06-15 13:53

      Problem is - the speeding motorist is already breaking the law, and all you are doing by flashing your lights, is to try and save them getting a fine. It is not to try and prevent a crime - they are alrady commiting a crime. If for one do not flash my lights to warn someone of a speedtrap!

      jackivdm - 2012-06-15 15:47

      @Roland, speed traps usually are (or at least should be) in areas with high accident rates, therefore me flashing my lights at someone is making them slow down and therefore might stop an accident from happening. You are also stopping them from committing a crime. It's like an alarm system in your house - it't only going to stop someone once they are already trying to break in, but hopefully it will stop them before someone gets hurt.

      Cyrus - 2012-06-15 16:16

      At Roland and Vernon. To use an example, if u see ur bro running with a knife do you warn them its dangerous and mommy is gona punish them if they dnt stop or do you let them continue with the risk that either A, they kill themselves or mommy catches them and gives them a beating.

      Morne - 2012-06-15 17:59

      What nonsense....!

  • JannieJammerGat - 2012-06-15 17:20

    Actually, on a highway, the law actually states that flashing your headlights at someone in front of you in the right hand lane is the correct way of indicating to them that they need to move to the left lane so that you can pass, an action which could easily be seen for warning an oncoming driver of a possible speedtrap. That said, I dont warn anyone anymore, they need to get what they deserve, law and order needs to return to our country, not just on the roads, everywhere.

  • Craig - 2012-06-16 08:17

    It's freedom of speech and nobody can stop that, oh, hang on.

  • Kevin - 2012-06-16 08:18

    I flash my lights and I hope that others will do the same to me. feeding the police coffers to justify them sitting on their arses behind bushes when they should be out doing visible policing and nabbing the unroadworthy vehicles and dangerous drivers is just not on !!!

  • jon.harris.9421450 - 2012-06-19 12:35

    i may be wrong (probably are) but i was under the influence that jmpd is there to ensure proper road usage and to decrease the carnage on our roads. i want to know how this is possible from behind a bush or tree. every holiday period the adverts keep saying that more visible policing will take place on our roads, yet the only visibility i see is usually in my rear view mirror, how does this help with road carnage? if by flashing lights to warn about a speed trap means that the "visible policing" is there then good keep flashing away i know that i certainly will be warning my fellow road users of them.....

  • mbonyathi - 2012-06-21 10:34

    2 mnths back on my way to musina just after Luis T up those mountains at night, a truck going down hill flashed lights at me as there was another truck that had lost power around a bend and rolled back and blocked 2 lanes..QN is whats wrong with that!

  • lucian.rajah - 2012-07-09 14:31

    @Zing - You're a selfish chop! We as road users need to unite against speed traps. Police get enough money from bribes at roadblocks anyways :)

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