"It is a pity that we know so much about Christ, and yet enjoy Him so little."

- Charles Spurgeon
Flashing The Headlights....Is It Ethical?

A series of questions:
Should Christians obey the law?
Does that include speed limit laws?
Should Christians help other motorists when possible?

I assume your answers were "Yes" to all of the above, now for the tough one. And I'm really not sure of the answer.
I mean it.
Be shocked if you wish, but I don't know the answer.

Should Christians warn other people there is a police officer down the road by flashing headlights?

What is the right thing to do?

Tell me what you think under comments. I want to hear from you! (It's something that has puzzled me for a long time.)


Trackback URL: http://thinklings.org/bloo.trackback.php/6946.

Comments on "Flashing The Headlights....Is It Ethical?":
1. Gary - 11/19/2013 11:25 am CST

I think the answer to the tough one is also yes.
Because if we deliberately don't warn them in order to "let them get caught" that is a form of judgement (we have decided that they're being "bad" and we are choosing to let a penalty happen to them).
I prefer to presume that everyone wants to do the right thing, and sometimes just need a reminder. That there are traffic patrols is one of those reminders.
We don't know the circumstances of oncoming drivers. Perhaps one is rushing because they just found out their child is in the ER. Will they slow down because we warn them of a speed trap? Who knows, maybe they'll be glad to know there's an officer nearby who could help them get to the hospital safely. There are endless possible scenarios, but the truth in all of them is that we do not know the other drivers' reasons for speeding, and we do know that judging them guilty ourselves is not our place.
To wax pop-theological, if they're "supposed to get caught" then nothing we do is going to change that.

2. Jason Kates - 11/19/2013 11:36 am CST

I warn other motorists of the presence of cops, or that they have their headlights off, by flashing my lights at them. It's on the other drivers to interpret that and choose to slow down, or turn on their headlights. I think it's a pretty easy way to help a brother slow down and avoid a ticket.

As a father who has driven a bleeding kid to the ER, I wouldn't worry about that driver slowing down at all. Any cop that caught me speeding that day would have had to wait to hear my explanation in the ER waiting room.

I don't consider flashing lights to be judging. 99% of the time I do it, I can't discern the oncoming traffic's speed. Those cars may already be under the speed limit. I don't do it only to drivers I think are speeding. I do it any time I pass a cop.

3. NHE - 11/19/2013 12:56 pm CST

My mom once got a ticket (when I was a 5 years old and in the car) for going 27 in a 25.

Maybe we can also ask the policeman that ticketed my mom - "Is that the right thing to do?"...perhaps so by the letter of the law.

To me this part of life (within 10 mph or so of the speed limit) is somewhat of a game. The 10 mph difference (particularly at 45mph and up) just isn't going to make a lot of difference in safety.

So I have no problem giving a friendly heads up. The people who are going "unsafely" fast won't likely see my flash anyway, and hopefully will get caught.

Former LA Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser was once asked if he thinks it's wrong (from a Christian standpoint) for baserunners to steal signs from the catcher and relay them back to the hitter. His answer was "in the confines of the game" absolutely not.

So I say, in the confines of 10mph (or a judged facsimile thereof) no problem. I don't think anyone should have to get the type of ticket that my mom received.

And as a parent who was once pulled over for driving a bleeding child to the ER, flashing lights wouldn't have helped me....the officer let me off quickly and wished me luck.

4. Evan - 11/19/2013 3:18 pm CST

The question is what is the purpose of the speed limit laws? The answer is to inform and require people to drive safely for the particular road conditions. The purpose is not to raise money for the government, courts, or police department.

If you accept that reasoning, than I see absolutely nothing wrong with flashing lights at people. It is simply a warning to slow down, which is what the purpose of the speed limit is anyway.

In fact, the police themselves use the same tactic. They will often put up roadside radar, that measures and flashes your speed to increase awareness and slow people down.

5. Tony - 11/19/2013 3:33 pm CST

Depends on the state whether you should flash your lights or rather whether it is legal / illegal to flash your lights in the first place:


Also, I was thinking of the urband legend of headlight flashing described at the end of this wiki article when I was reading this post. There you have it, I can flash my headlights in good conscience now without being hunted down by a gang member initiate :)

So, will flashing your headlights and sparing your neighbor a ticket bring someone to Christ? Doubtful. If anything, let them face judgment, financial burden and hardship and perhaps they will be broken enough to search for God.

6. Karl - 11/19/2013 3:33 pm CST

Evan's example of the roadside radar that the police set up with a digital readout intended to make people aware of their speed and encourage them to slow down came to my mind also. I agree there is nothing immoral about flashing one's lights to let other drivers know there is a speed trap ahead. I know that if I am on the receiving end of that warning, it often causes me to not only slow down right there and then but also often carries over for a period of time and raises my own awareness of what speed I am driving.

7. Bird - 11/19/2013 3:39 pm CST

I always appreciate it when people flash headlights at me, so I tend to return the favor.

8. NHE - 11/19/2013 5:09 pm CST

I actually had an unmarked police car flash lights and blare siren at me when I was going to fast, so they definitely do merely warn.

9. Tony - 11/19/2013 9:59 pm CST

Y'all are leading Phil down a path of sin, so I feel compelled to provide rebuttal :)

I wonder if someone who's kid was hit & killed by a car speeding in a neighborhood would think it is OK to give speeders a break even if it were on highways?

Some of you make it sound like this will be a topic at the bema seat of Christ. I see you successfully flashed 50 vehicles and prevented them from getting a ticket - here is your headlight flashing crown. Sorry, I don't correlate this with 'loving your neighbor'.

Generally speaking, are not people 'better off' in the long run with hardships in their lives rather than easy living? Let them get a ticket. Besides it's good for the economy. Some small business is going to get a nice city / county contract from the incoming funds of the speeding tickets.

And for you philosophy students: if you successfully save all the vehicles a mile past the speed trap, but you don't continually warn vehicles at miles 2 and beyond, won't you be condemning those drivers at miles 2 & 3? I mean if you didn't flash at all, a vehicle at mile 1 gets busted and drivers behind that vehicle drive past someone getting pulled over - you save those drivers at miles 2 and beyond because a cop can only bust one driver at a time.

10. damien - 11/20/2013 7:37 am CST

i'm sixty years old and have never gotten a speeding ticket. when i see motorists warning each other about police radar up ahead it reminds me of the statement at the very end of romans one. people not only know what's wrong and do it anyway, but we also have a twisted sinful drive to encourage others to join us. the idea is "hey everybody's doing it. it can't be wrong."

11. NHE - 11/20/2013 9:20 am CST

Tony, damien.......buzz kill dudes.

I think the point that most of us were trying to make is simply that this isn't a big deal. It's a culturally accepted courtesy that we extend to one another. I've never even 2nd guessed it as unethical, and nothing I've read here would change that.

I'm pretty sure Paul didn't have it in mind when he wrote Romans 1.

12. Tony - 11/20/2013 9:44 am CST

NHE, I hope you saw my reasoning a bit over the top with a bit of 1/2 truth in it. In other words, I was having some fun with the topic. Ultimately, like you stated, it isn't a big deal one way or the other but I never go out of my way to flash my headlights to warn motorists of speed traps.

Now, I think my first post where I mention that some states have laws against the act of flashing your headlights for whatever reason is illegal makes a point. So, I would imagine that would be crossing the line as to whether you flash your lights to warn others (you have to break the law to warn others) but unless you memorize which states have those laws (you are on a road trip with your family), the easy rule of thumb is to just not flash your lights period.

13. NHE - 11/20/2013 9:49 am CST

Respectfully Tony, I'd be as prone to obey that law as I would one of the laws on the books in the city where we live. "Every resident must own a gun".

I'm breaking the law, in full knowledge, and will continue to do so.

14. Flyaway - 11/20/2013 11:35 am CST

I've never flashed my lights to warn others about a speed trap but I have put it out there on social media. One time I was stopped for not heeding the change in the speed limit from 35 to 25. My husband had threatened to put a bell on me because he could never find me. When he can't find me he thinks I've been raptured and he's been left behind. So when I was stopped I assumed my husband was trying to find me. I asked the officer if the reason he stopped me was to tell me that there was trouble at home. He was so shocked he let me go with a warning. I told everyone I know to slow down and heed the speed limit sign!

15. Neo - 11/21/2013 8:32 am CST

Strange, I usually just flash the lights to warn cars of an auto accident or a flash storm ahead. Speeders deserve to be ticketed.

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