Much controversy has faced the interpretation of the law in the United States regarding whether it is actually legal to flash your headlights at other drivers to signal, basically, that there are police up ahead. The action done by many drivers to help one another entails various implications, it’s either not allowed or the reverse, depending on the location. We will examine whether it is legal and what different courts have said about the matter in various places. Alright, here we go.

Is It Illegal To Flash Your Headlights To Warn Of Police

Understanding the Gesture

You see, blinking your car lights can mean a few things on the road. It could signal drivers coming your way to have forgotten to turn on their lights, signaling to others, they are signaling there are dangers ahead on the road, or signaling the contents of this document are a probable location for the presence of police checking for speeding cars nearby. Even though people who do this usually mean well, whether it’s okay by law changes from one state to another.

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The First Amendment Defense

The defining moment on this one is when courts aver that flashing your lights to warn about police represents a form of using your freedom of speech, which is protected by the First Amendment. The most serious court to have ruled on the question so far came in 2014 from one in St. Louis, Missouri, which held that drivers may flash their headlights at other motorists to alert them to police speed checks, invoking the First Amendment. This ruling dovetailed with the outcome of other court cases around the country when people sued against fines for flashing their lights, with assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union.

State-Specific Laws and Rulings

Well, that’s a bit tricky because if you could flash your car’s headlights to warn of a police control or something, it totally depends on the place. Different places take it differently.

  • Missouri: Back in 2014, there was a super big court decision saying it’s totally cool to flash your headlights to others as a way of telling them something, say, like giving a heads-up about the police. Before, one could be ticketed for it.
  • Florida: An individual strongly stated that flashing headlights to alert the police is the right thing. And, as a result, guess what? The law was changed to make it clear that it’s totally fine to do so.
  • Pennsylvania: Now, things get a little blurry. The state’s top court said that all is good in the daytime, flash your headlights to your heart’s content. But when night falls, the waters get a tad murky because there are regulations over when you can use your brights.
  • New Jersey: Courts have ruled that you can be stopped and cited solely for using a hand-held cell phone while driving your vehicle, regardless of any other motor vehicle laws you may or may not be breaking.


All in all, flashing your headlights to warn others of the police is generally taken to be what most drivers do to help each other prevent tickets. However, this permissibility often changes from place to place. With laws and what courts say constantly changing, it is super important to know what’s allowed where you drive.


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