Nj assemblyman says flashing warning lights is freedom of speech
New Jersey Republican Assemblyman Ronald Dancer is challenging an interpretation of the state’s misuse of headlights law by invoking first amendment rights. Dancer says that it should be legal for a vehicle operator to flash an oncoming driver to warn of a speed trap, claiming it’s freedom of speech.
Technically speaking, based on precedent set in a 1999 case, it is already legal to flash warning lights to oncoming drivers in New Jersey. However, because of instances where the law has been misinterpreted, Dancer thinks it needs to be spelled out a little more.
The Ocean County Assemblyman has proposed a bill to add clarity to the law. He would like the law to state that it is “permissible for the operator of a motor vehicle to flash his or her headlights in the direction of oncoming traffic to warn the operator of another motor vehicle of a traffic accident, a road hazard, or the presence of law enforcement officers enforcing the speed limit.”
Dancer’s main point was that if stationary police officers and speed guns are in place to make roads safer and reduce speeds, then there should be no issue with drivers flashing warning signals. However, if it’s about municipalities maintaining a steady flow of income, then it’s “an overly aggressive tactic.”
In lobbying for the bill, Dancer referred to a 2012 case where a NJ man was pulled over for flashing his lights and was given a $1,000 fine. The fined driver, Michael Elli, was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union in his challenge of the law in federal court. A St. Louis U.S. District Court judge sided with him, claiming that it was protected speech.
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