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ALWAYS WARN MOTORISTS OF SPEED TRAPS
For many years, there have been laws passed to make it illegal for motorists to flash their high beams at oncoming motorists to warn them of speed traps. The reason stated by governments and police was that this practice was dangerous because flashing high beams would dazzle oncoming drivers. Of course this reason was completely bogus. The real reason for these laws was to prevent motorists from alerting others of speed traps. These laws were passed in order to facilitate revenue-raising by police for their respective state governments.
Would motorists be fined for flashing their high beams at oncoming drivers to warn them of hazards on the road, such as a fallen tree or an accident? Of course not. Would motorists be booked by police for flashing their lights at drivers who are heading towards any form of danger? Never. So why is it not dangerous to flash one's high beams to warn of hazards on the road, but is claimed to be dangerous to warn of speed traps? It does not make any logical sense unless it is taken in context of revenue-raising.
In Victoria in 2013, police stated that they did not mind motorists flashing their high beams to warn of speed traps. So why is this practice now considered to be safe in Victoria, yet dangerous in other Australian jurisdictions? The reason can be easily construed from the fact that Victorian police are now permitted to establish hidden speed traps that cannot be easily spotted by motorists and they are also allowed to place their speed traps in positions that are conducive to inadvertent speeding, such as at the bottom of hills, thus making it easier for them to entrap motorists and rip them off.
However, if flashing high beams is considered to be safe in Victoria, this argument and a few others can be used to fight infringements for this activity in other jurisdictions. The interesting thing to note is that when a motorist flashes his high beams at oncoming drivers, he is actually performing the service of slowing speeding motorists down - the exact reason that police give as justification for setting up speed traps.
ONE RULE FOR THEM AND ANOTHER RULE FOR US
This very short piece of video recorded by me on 21 January 2014 on my car black box recorder shows an ambulance driving at high speed towards my car and flashing its high beams. It doesn't look that dramatic on the video, but those flashing headlights were very powerful and bright and also very distracting. But why are ambulances and police permitted to drive along and flash their high beams if they claim that it is dangerous for motorists to do the same to warn other motorists of speed traps?
Here is another example. On 09 December 2014, I was driving in the Sydney suburb of Glenhaven, when a police car drove towards me with its siren and red and blue dome lights operating, as well as its headlights flashing directly into my eyes. The video clip does not do it justice, but I would swear in any court that those headlights were very bright and very distracting to me as a motorist.
Reasonable people understand that ambulances and police have to get to the scenes of accidents and crimes in a hurry, but they have flashing dome lights and sirens to warn traffic. So why is it that they use flashing high beams, when the government claims that flashing high beams is so dangerous that motorists are booked for doing this when warning other motorists of speed traps? Surely flashing those high beams allegedly poses the same danger, whether ordinary motorists do it or police and ambulances do it. If it's dangerous, then it should not be allowed, but if the government allows police and other emergency services to do it, then obviously it's not dangerous.
So using this video clip as evidence, any motorist who is booked for flashing his high beams to warn oncoming motorists that there is a speed trap should take the matter to court and grill the prosecution witnesses and even subpoena state government officials to explain to the court why flashing high beams by motorists is considered to be dangerous and a bookable offence, yet flashing high beams is considered safe when done by emergency vehicles. CARR suggests that all motorists install car black box recorders and save video clips of these occurrences to use as evidence in court.
FIGHTING HIGH BEAM INFRINGEMENTS IN COURT
If a motorist is booked for flashing his high beams to warn oncoming motorists of a speed trap, there is a fairly logical way of mounting a good defence. Imagine a courtroom scene where a motorist has the policeman who booked him on the witness stand - the cross-examination might go something like this:
DEFENDANT: If I flashed my lights to warn oncoming motorists that they were approaching a speed trap, would you book me?
POLICE: Of course Ė itís an offence.
DEFENDANT: If I had driven past an accident that was blocking the road or a fallen tree or any dangerous obstacle and I flashed my lights to warn oncoming motorists of this hazard, would you book me for flashing my lights?
POLICE: Of course not (obviously)
DEFENDANT: But donít the police say that flashing lights at oncoming motorists is dangerous and is actually an offence?
POLICE: Yes, it is an offence in certain circumstances.
DEFENDANT: But you just testified that you would not book me for flashing my lights to warn oncoming motorists of a dangerous obstacle, but you would book me for doing the same thing in regard to warning oncoming motorists that they were approaching a speed trap? Does this difference in circumstances rely on the fact that you would book me because I was reducing your ability to raise revenue by entrapping motorists?
POLICE: Um, but..... (this is where the cop would be completely beyond being able to reason logically to show that flashing lights is dangerous in one instance, but not in another instance).
DEFENDANT: If I flashed my lights at oncoming motorists to warn them of a speed trap, what do you think would be my purpose in doing this?
POLICE: You would be doing this to warn motorists to slow down to the speed limit because there was a speed trap ahead of them.
DEFENDANT: But isnít that exactly what the police would like them to do? Slow down to the speed limit? Am I not performing a valuable public service in making motorists aware that they should drive at or below the speed limit?
POLICE: Yes but in this instance you would be warning them of a speed trap, not of a hazard ahead.
DEFENDANT: So are you insinuating that it is OK for me to flash my lights to warn of hazards, but itís not OK for me to flash my lights to warn of speed traps because you police really want to see people speeding so that you can book them and raise revenue for the government?
POLICE: We are there with our speed traps to enforce the speed limit, not to raise revenue (bullshit of course).
DEFENDANT: But isnít that exactly what I am helping you to do? Getting motorists to drive at or below the speed limit?
POLICE: It is not your role to help motorists drive at or below the speed limit. (This is where the cop probably throws his hands up and wishes that he could crawl off the witness stand)
DEFENDANT: Is it not my civic duty to help my fellow citizens avoid breaking the law?
POLICE: Yes... but (obviously he will not have an answer for this).
DEFENDANT: Now you claim that by flashing my high beams at oncoming motorists was dangerous. Do you have any persons who have laid a complaint against me for allegedly dazzling them with my high beams that you can call as witnesses?
POLICE: Nobody has laid any complaint against you at this time.
DEFENDANT: Do you normally book motorists for offences where nobody complains about their activities, especially those which have the effect of slowing speeding motorists down to the speed limit?
POLICE: Flashing high beams is a bookable offence.
DEFENDANT: In your opinion as an experienced police officer, would you say that motorists whom I warned of an oncoming speed trap by flashing my headlights would be grateful that I saved them from being booked, or do you think that any of them would complain?
POLICE: I don't know.
DEFENDANT: In your career as a police officer, have you ever dealt with a complaint from a motorist who had headlights flashed at him by another motorist to warn him of an oncoming speed trap? If so, could you please tell the court of the circumstances?
POLICE: I have never had anybody complain to me that somebody warned them of a speed trap by flashing headlights.
DEFENDANT: Would you book me if I flashed my high beams to warn oncoming motorists of a hazard on the road, would you?
DEFENDANT: Are you aware that the NSW Motorists Handbook that learner drivers use to study for their licences states the following, "When you overtake another vehicle, you may briefly flash high beam immediately before starting the overtaking manoeuvre." Would you agree that it is obviously not an offence to flash one's high beams in this circumstance, even though the driver in the car in front may be dazzled by them?
POLICE: If the NSW Motorists Handbook states this, then it must be permissible to flash one's high beams in such a circumstance.
DEFENDANT: So do you agree that flashing one's headlights to warn oncoming motorists of a hazard ahead of them is all right and you wouldn't book them for doing this and flashing one's high beams prior to overtaking another vehicle is also permissible according to the NSW Motorists Handbook, then would you agree that the only real reason that you would book a motorist for flashing his high beams is because he is warning oncoming motorists of a speed trap?
POLICE: Well, they are different circumstances.
DEFENDANT: Are you aware that the offence of flashing high beams at cars is defined as a crime?
POLICE: Yes I am aware of this.
DEFENDANT: Then are you aware that under legislation, for there to be a crime, there has to be a victim or injured party or a violation of contract?
POLICE: Well, if that is the definition of a crime, I suppose so.
DEFENDANT: In this particular instance of me flashing my high beams, were there any victims who complained to you about this?
DEFENDANT: In this particular instance of me flashing my high beams, were there any injured parties who complained to you about this?
DEFENDANT: In this particular instance of me flashing my high beams, was there any violation of contract?
DEFENDANT: So would you not agree that no crime was committed if nobody complained about my actions, there was no injured parties and there was no violation of contract?
POLICE: Flashing headlights is still an offence.
DEFENDANT: Do you not agree that I have shown this court by your own sworn testimony and responses to my questions that you would only book me for flashing my high beams to warn oncoming motorists of a speed trap, despite it being an offence to do so in all circumstances? Did you testify that nobody complained about me doing this? Is it true that you booked me for a crime where nobody was injured and there were no victims?
POLICE: That was my sworn testimony.
At this point in the procedure, the defendant should ask the court to dismiss the matter on the basis that the police issued the infringement on a completely arbitrary basis and for the purpose of punishing the defendant for warning oncoming motorists of speed traps and not because it was dangerous. Furthermore, the defendant should point out to the court that under the definition of a crime, on which this infringement happens to be based, no crime was committed because there was no victim, no injured party and no violation of contract, those three criteria being required to prove a crime. By rights, with such evidence and the police's own sworn testimony, one would think that such an infringement would be dismissed on the spot.
STUPID AND UNJUSTIFIABLE OFFENCE
A motorist has stated to me that in Western Australia, a motorist pulled over by police for flashing his headlights to warn of a speed trap can be charged with the offence of "obstructing the police from carrying out their duties." Obstructing the police from raising revenue? Is there anything more ridiculous and illogical than this? Furthermore, any motorist who is booked for this ludicrous offence could tear the cop who booked him to ribbons on the witness stand. For instance, imagine this cross-examination in court.
DEFENDANT: Officer, you booked me for the offence of "obstructing the police from carrying out their duties". Could you please specify exactly how I obstructed you or any other police from carrying out their duties?
POLICE: You were observed flashing your high beams at oncoming motorists.
DEFENDANT: That's right, but how was that obstructing you in any way?
POLICE: You were warning oncoming motorists that I was operating a speed trap.
DEFENDANT: Are you trying to tell this court that you objected to me trying to get oncoming motorists to slow down so they would not get booked?
POLICE: It is my job to enforce the speed limit and prevent motorists speeding.
DEFENDANT: But isn't that exactly what I was doing? Getting motorists who were speeding to reduce their speed to the speed limit?
POLICE: Yes, but this was interfering with the operation of my speed trap.
DEFENDANT: So if I had the effect of slowing motorists down to the speed limit, is it not true that the only reason you booked me was that I was reducing your ability to book motorists for speeding?
POLICE: Yes, that was the effect you had.
DEFENDANT: So are you trying to tell this court that if I was obstructing you from carrying out your duties by slowing motorists to the speed limit, you were hoping that motorists would speed, to give you the opportunity to book them?
POLICE: I am there to book speeding motorists.
DEFENDANT: So what's the problem if my actions slowed them down? Therefore is it then true that you were running that speed trap to generate revenue in fines and I was in fact not obstructing you in the slightest, but merely reducing your opportunity to do this?
POLICE: (Who knows how the cop would answer this, faced with sheer logic and hard facts)
This is the problem faced by police who try and book motorists for flashing their high beams to warn of speed traps. Either they prove that flashing headlights is dangerous, something that they do themselves all the time when pursuing cars or driving to crime scenes, or they are forced to admit that motorists flashing headlights are merely doing what they should be doing - keeping a visible presence on the roads and deterring motorists from speeding, instead of hiding behind bushes and corners and hoping motorists would speed so that they can be booked in order to raise revenue for the state.
Getting motorists to slow down to the speed limit cannot possibly be an offence, therefore the only pretext for booking a motorist for flashing headlights is that the state claims that it is dangerous. However, cops, ambulances and fire brigade vehicles do this all the time when driving to emergencies, therefore it cannot be dangerous to do this. Any motorist who is booked for flashing high beams should fight the booking in court using the above logical arguments to the magistrate that the entire reason for the infringement is for revenue-raising and that is a wrongful use of a very unjust road law.
WHAT TO DO
Despite the fact that flashing one's headlights at oncoming motorists is a bookable offence in most jurisdictions, a defendant can easily show a court that the ONLY reason for this law is for the purpose of giving police more opportunities to entrap motorists. In other words, police want to see motorists speeding for the purpose of booking them and anything that reduces their chances of doing this should be stopped, such as flashing high beams.
I have heard that some motorists who have used similar defences as the hypothetical one above have actually had those infringements dismissed, so it is always worth fighting them. The most important thing is for motorists to help fellow drivers avoid being booked by police speed traps by flashing their high beams and doing anything else that warns them of these financial hazards.
I am not in the business of advising motorists to break laws, however the flashing high beams law is so unjust and the reason for it is so ludicrously apparent, that it calls for motorists to exercise civil disobedience and ignore this idiotic law and fight any infringement based on it in court.