If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 17 January 2011

Flashers of the World, unite ...

... and get thee over to the IAM website, where there is a poll in the use of headlight flashes. I think this is in response to the chap who was prosecuted recently for warning oncoming drivers of a speed trap.

The IAM view is that we shouldn't flash our lights at all, as it is not mentioned in the Highway Code and any 'message' could be misinterpreted. This is a reasonable point, although it ignores the fact that in the real world there is already lots of flashing going on, and we have developed a fairly sophisticated code - long/short, single/repeated and so on. I can't describe the code here, but I would say that I have rarely, if ever, misunderstood when someone has flashed me. 9 times out of 10 it is a polite 'after you, Cecil' - the other one time, there is usually no misunderstanding of the guy's hostile intent.

The IAM are interested in getting as many views as possible, so get over there and spend two minutes helping them out. There are some text boxes so you can make your meaning perfectly clear. To be fair, the options cover all shades of opinion. You don't have to be a member to take part.

Click here to join the fun.


  1. Thanks for the link; I've added my two-penneth.

    For the avoidance of misunderstanding, IMHO, flashing should really only indicate your presence.

    In reality, flashing frequently occurs when a driver recognises an oncoming driver (cf the many lorry & bus drivers of the same organisation who flash each other.)

    A point not reported about the above unfortunate driver is if he simply flashed because he recognised an oncoming driver. The police officer who claimed 'interference in her duties' made a number of consecutive presumptions.

  2. The guy was foolish, or he was making a point. From memory (too late to seek out the details) he actually told her he was doing his civic duty by warning oncoming drivers of the trap and thereby slowing them down. He was inviting a confrontation. If he'd said "sorry, did I really do that?", or "I was going for the indicator and hit the flasher by mistake", or "I saw a mate in a car and wanted to say hello", then the case would have been very unlikely to proceed, as the police would have had a hell of a job proving otherwise in court. He really made a rod for his own back there.

  3. It seems that - at least locally - a flash of your hazards is code for 'thanks for letting me out ahead of you'...

  4. Same here - I think that one's pretty much universal.

  5. Flashing used between truck drivers to signal clear to pull in.

    IAM a bit irrelevant IMHO - never liked them after they published that anti-motorcycle rant by the twat who edits "Diesel Car Anoraks" magazine.

  6. I don't care if people flash their lights to 'warn' of a speed check or not. I don't and I don't act on people flashing their lights at me when I'm waiting to pull out of a junction and they are too lazy to drive round me properly and would rather I ride out into their path (often when they are still moving).

    This usually ends with them waving their arms like the mad old biffers they usually are and me staring at them until I'm sure they are not going to move before I pull out.... :)

    While I ride and take decisions for myself, thanks.

  7. Nikos - to be fair, the IAM have made a big effort in recent years to get with the bike programme. The monthly mag is stuffed full of bike articles these days. Unfortunately, many of them are still of the "the controls fell easily to hand" variety. I wouldn't say they were anti-bike these days, though. Far from it. Anti-hooligan, perhaps, but then someone's got to do it.

    Voyager - you are quite right. Trust no-one, especially car drivers, even when bearing gifts. Nine out of ten will let you pull out - the tenth was only trying to find the remote for the CD player and never even saw you.

  8. Ah, yes, this. I quite wanted to comment on the original post, but was even later to the party...

    For once, I didn't really agree with the posting - even speaking as one who feels that speed (sorry, making reasonable forward progress) is a good thing, that focussing on it excessively is counterproductive to road safety and that fixed speed cameras - given their often dubious siting and even more dubious statistical backing - are primarily a revenue stream.

    However, that doesn't mean that all speeding is good, or that all forms of speed enforcement are bad. Nor does it mean the police are petty bullies if they happen to use some of their enforcement powers. From the the CPS website, under section 89(2) of the Police Act 1996: (http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/public_justice_offences_incorporating_the_charging_standard/)
    "- giving a warning to other motorists of a police speed trap ahead" is specifically cited as an example of what constitutes wilful obstruction, but is only prosecutable if some of those other motorists have been shown to slow down to legal limits as a result of the warning. In other words, the flasher (oo-er) has been proven to assist people who were already voluntarily committing a crime to avoid apprehension.

    It isn't a particularly convincing argument that this becomes acceptable if the individual providing that assistance views the crime being committed as insignificant. Nor does it wash that this is in any way an exercise of civic duty, either, since it is arbitrarily preempting a presumably appropriate action being taken by the appropriate authority. What it is is simply trying to protect fellow motorists from the consequences of their own actions, without any valid criteria for judging whether they deserve that protection. It might even be fair to suggest that if they're not paying enough attention to spot the speed trap unaided, they're the ones who least deserve it...

    Signed mobile cameras in urban areas are, to my mind, about as far from entrapment as it gets - and in this case I think it was a reasonable prosecution and an apposite level of wrist-slapping to dish out.

    Back on topic - if you flash (I don't, personally), I feel it should only be as an "I am here", since that is the only option over which you personally have control. All other permutations are essentially relying on another road user to understand the signal and act appropriately. That way, usually, lies disappointment.

    Voyager - yep, bang on.

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  11. Endo, you may have misundestood me, as I don't think I was advocating flashing as such. I was pointing out that people do it, and usually understand what the other guy means, regardless of whether you (or I) participate. Just an observation, really.

    As for myself, there are a lot of narrow lanes round here, and there is rarely a journey where I don't meet someone coming the other way and one or other will have to pull in to let the other pass. A quick flash as you pull over lets the other guy know you are letting him through, and is usually asnwered with a flash as he passes you. Without this, meeting other vehicles would be a nightmare, with whole minutes lost as each wonders if the other is going to stay or move. As speeds are low, the consequences of a misunderstanding are minor.

    As for warning about a speed camera, that was a whole other post.

  12. Sorry if I wasn't being clear - as this post referenced the previous one (What are the police for?), I stuck my tuppenceworth about that in here. It made sense at the time - on rereading, rather less so!

    Fair point, though - if there's a well-understood and useful local convention, as in your example, it's perfectly sensible to adopt it. I would myself, under those circumstances. However, there's simply too much traffic and too much variation in driving ability in the Southcentral conurbation to rely on that sort of thing here.

  13. Heh. After I had posted the comment, I realised that's what you were doing. My own position on 'flashing' to warn of a trap is ambiguous. If I see a camera van in an urban area, I tend to let them get on with it, for reasons you outline above. Where I will flash is where I think the positioning is sneaky. There's a bridge on the A48 near here which crosses a wide and clear stretch iof dual carriageway, where people regularly crack on at 90 or so, in complete safety. The bridge, in one direction, is obscured by overhanging trees, and it's a favourite spot for the scamera 'partnership'. I will always flash ahead to warn people of that. It's probably morally unjustified (you've picked that one apart well), but I still do it, especially to bikes. It's an old-fashioned solidarity, us-and-them thing. Not clever, but satisfying.


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