'Flashing Your Headlights? You're Probably Sending the Wrong Signals'

'Drivers once commonly flashed their headlights at oncoming cars that had their high beams on. But according to William E. Van Tassel, the manager of driver training programs at AAA's headquarters in Heathrow, Fla., "We really have gotten away from that."
The driver with the blinding high beams might be impaired by alcohol. Flashing your own high beams, particularly at night, could make that person's vision, possibly already diminished by drinking and darkness, even worse, Mr. Van Tassel said.
He also advised against flashing your lights because of the dangers of the so-called moth effect, which occurs when drivers are mesmerized by bright or flashing lights and head in the direction they are looking. Flashing your lights could also be interpreted as an act of aggression.

Hmmm… I still thought this was the rule. I remember flashing my brights on a guy who I thought had his on. When he flashed back, I saw that they weren’t his brights, just a lot brighter than I’m used to.

Sometimes drivers at a four-way stop flash their lights to signal others to go ahead.
Never heard this one, wouldn't trust it.

Yes. I suppose AAA will repair my car when I drive into the ditch because I’m blinded? They forgot to mention the idiots who think it’s their right to leave them on high. Ran into one those nut jobs shortly after buying my new car.

The fad is to replace bulbs and lenses for the brightest possible… on cars not designed for them. The dudes have sense enough to screw in a bulb, but not enough smarts to adjust them. Any knuckle dragger with $30 can install a set. Then there are the new trolls who put light bars below the bumper… no adjustment and a dozen LED lamps.

$200 fine in Indiana. One place says for flashing lights and the other says for not dimming but I’m not gonna find out which. And I don’t believe in the moth effect, unless you are a moth. If it’s a dark night and the patrol have their bright lights flashing away, part of the problem is it is very hard to determine where exactly they are, left or right lane in the blinding light, until you are pretty close. They’ve gotten worse with multi color light bars. Used to be just red or amber and in the south it was always blue. But now they flash white, amber, red, blue, all at the same time and is really blinding.

There are no universally accepted, consistent standards for using headlights to communicate. “It means something different to everybody,” one expert said.

I have to agree with that statement,
To a lot of people they do a “Flash to Pass” when coming up from behind.
To me, as a truck driver flashing your lights is telling me it’s safe to pull in front of you.

Another one is, are you telling me you think my high beams are on
Or are you telling me there is a police car running radar up the road.

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Here it says you can’t flash lights 300 feet behind a car (as in signaling to move over). In many states (Indiana?) you can flash them so long as you are 500 feet away.

Of course, Indiana also says “no more than 300 candle power” and 24 to 54" from the ground. We have pickups here that the bumper is 54" above the ground. I wonder if some of the new Ford PU’s don’t exceed that height.

And, yes, I always break the law to let a truck know it’s safe to move into my lane… or will flick them off and on at night.

I’ve also flashed my headlights before to let an oncoming driver know they didn’t have their headlights on. Probably didn’t work, but that’s about the only signal you can give.

I don’t see much of the “flash to pass” anymore. And I’m glad. I always hated that. I’m not on the autobahn. Pass already. No need for an announcement. Always seemed a little uppity. Especially the goobers who would come up from behind in the left lane and flash at you before you could get over after making a pass yourself. Yes, you’re attempting to pass the car at 30 mph faster, and I’m attempting to pass it at 10 mph faster. I’ll get back in the right lane when I’m done. Get over yourself, speedracer :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:.

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I worked with this dweeb who rode around with his high-beams on all the time because he liked to be noticed. He LOVED it when people flashed their lights at him because he knew he was being noticed.

We had an accident here in NH about 10 years ago where some woman had her very bright high-beams on and actually was so blinding to on-coming traffic it caused an accident. When the woman was stopped by the Staties…her reason for the extremely bright lights and high-beams was - “She couldn’t see very well without them.” At that point the Statie should have taken her license away for being too blind to drive.

This is safer. Some companies make it policy. I’ve driven on highways in California that had signs telling drivers to turn on their lights during the day: they were testing its effectiveness as a safety measure.

I use lights all the time, but I think he may have meant high beams? My MC friends install flashers on their headlights (flashing high beam) for better visibility. It can be turned off for night riding.

In 1990 and 1991, before all vehicles had DRLs, I took my mom on a pair of driving trips across over a dozen western states. I quickly discovered that having headlights on in daytime was required in many states. But when I got back into OK and MO I was given warnings by Troopers that daytime use of headlights except in rain was illegal. At the time there was no consistency from state to state whether daytime headlights were allowed, prohibited, or required.

Yeah, there are stupid laws all over.

Actually I said it wrong. This dweeb rode with his high-beams on all the time.

That’s very different - never mind.

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I’ve found 18-wheelers often can’t judge where cars in the lane just to their left are, especially when just behind them. When I see one approaching a car in front of them and I’m far enough back, I flash my lights to tell them it’s safe to pass. They seem to like that and flash their tail lights back.


I’ve always used high-beam flash to warn oncoming drivers of police radar ahead. Up in MA, I saw it done all the time. Down here in the Carolinas, I never see it done!

And I also use it to let 18-wheelers pass in front of me. I also do not run people into the back ends of other vehicles on the Interstate. I hate when people do that to me!

Yes, that’s still done (a hang over from the old trucker movies of the 60’s.) It’s actually illegal in some states.

A driver in Oregon recently got pulled over. He had a cop following him, so flashed cars ahead. The cop said another cop saw the flash. The car driver got PO’ed and fought the ticket. It ended up in the state’s top court, where it was ruled as a freedom-of-speech right (but still OK if it’s illegal). How about that for waffle? If you have thousands to spend, you can fight a $180 ticket.

Good for him! That’s outrageous giving someone a ticket for flashing their headlights!

It could have been pro bono.

I do also remember a time (in the 80’s?) where there were stories of cars purposely driving around with their lights off, waiting for someone to flash their lights at them … then they would turn around, track them down, and attack the person.

So if you’re gonna flash your lights in this case, make sure you pay attention to the car in your rear-view mirror, and if it turns around and comes toward you - that you have a proper “response” for that.

Around here it is common practice to flash lights to indicate to another driver you’re yielding. For example come to 4 way stop nearly simultaneously and one driver flashes to the other telling them to go first. Or if traffic going along and car waiting to pull out. Perhaps not like anywhere else, drivers will slow or stop to let them out. They flash in advance so the merging driver knows they are yielding…