Warning Other Driver’s of Radar Traps is Legal in Ontario

Update: see previous posts – July 20, 2011 Guelph Man Ticketted After Warning Other Driver’s of Police Radar, December 28, 2010 Texas Man Warns Motorists of Upcoming Radar Traps, November 21, 2010 Photo Radar – Ontario Liberals are Re-Introducing it into the Highway Traffic Act, September 2, 2010 Toronto – Radar Trap Central, December 26, 2009 Revealing radar traps to other Motorists, is this act illegal?

see source reprint from the Toronto Star

Back in September, 2010 it was reported that with 277 radar traps, Toronto is considered the worst city in Canada with the highest number of speed traps, compared to every other city in Canada, according to the National Motorists Association.

Can motorist’s warn each other of radar that they observe, while driving?  The answer is “yes” and it can be down legally, in Ontario.

If the whole idea for radar traps is to impress upon driver’s that safety and slowing down is important, and that radar traps are not set up as a revenue grab, then why wouldn’t the police encourage motorist’s to warn other driver’s to slow down?

Toronto police officer (at Eastern Ave. & Sumach St.) holding a radar gun, measuring speed of cars, as they travel westbound on

Above a police officer stands, with radar gun in hand, waiting for a speeding motorist, coming down the hill westbound on Eastern Avenue, travelling towards Cherry Street.

There are many radar traps in Toronto and many are set-up while motor vehicles are travelling down an incline, down a hill.  Vehicles pick up speed if they are in neutral and even if the driver takes his/her foot off of the gas pedal, the vehicle picks up speed.

There is nothing in the provincial legislation to prevent drivers from flashing their headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a police radar spot check, according to police and other officials.

Florida driver sues for right to flash headlights at speed traps

Erich Campbell thought he was just being helpful the night he flashed his headlights on a busy Tampa highway to warn drivers of a police speed trap ahead.

Florida Licence Plate (Sunshine State). With the exception of specialty license plates that were authorized during the 2008 Legislative Session or submitted requirements by a specific date, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles may not issue any new specialty license plates pursuant to ss. 320.08056 and 320.08058, Florida Statutes, between July 1, 2008 and July 1, 2014.

The Florida Highway Patrol didn’t appreciate the help. Officers pulled Campbell over and ticketed him.

Flashing your lights is illegal, they said.

Claiming no such law exists, Campbell, 38, of Land O’Lakes, got angry. Now he wants to get even: He filed a lawsuit on behalf of every other driver in Florida ticketed for the same violation over the past six years, accusing police of misinterpreting state law and violating motorists’ free speech rights.

“This is a pattern, and it has mostly to do with frustrated police officers who feel they were disrespected,” Campbell said. “When someone comes along and rats them out, they take offense to it.”

Capt. Mark Welch, a spokesman for the FHP, cited a law that says “flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles” except for turn signals. Welch said he could not comment in detail because of the pending legal case.

Campbell and his attorney, J. Marc Jones of Oviedo, say police are misinterpreting a law that’s meant to ban drivers from having strobe lights in their cars or official-looking blue police lights.

In Ontario, section 169 of the Highway Traffic Act outlines a similar law which states, “No person shall use highbeam headlamps that produce alternating flashes of white light on any vehicle other than a vehicle referred to in subsection 1 (emergency vehicles).”

But there is no specific law in Ontario banning the practice of flashing high beam headlights to communicate with other drivers. Several drivers have been ticketed for “obstructing justice” after flashing their lights at speed traps, but in many cases those charges failed to stand up in court.

Soon after Campbell sued the state, the Highway Patrol on Aug. 29 ordered all troopers to stop issuing tickets to motorists who use headlights as a signal to other drivers.

“You are directed to suspend enforcement action for this type of driver behavior,” said the memo from Grady Garrick, acting deputy director of patrol operations.

Campbell, a student at St. Petersburg College’s Tarpon Springs campus, was driving his Toyota Tundra pickup on the Veterans Expressway in Tampa on a Monday night, Dec. 7, 2009, when he spotted two black state trooper cruisers parked in the median.

When he saw them, he said, he flashed his headlights a few times to alert motorists headed in the opposite direction.

“Within 60 seconds, they had me pulled over,” Campbell said.

The ticket was for $115, but Hillsborough County Judge Raul Palomino dismissed it, and Campbell never paid a dime.

Campbell’s lawsuit, filed in circuit court in Tallahassee, cites similar cases in Escambia, Osceola, Seminole and St. Lucie counties in which tickets for flashing were all dismissed by judges.

“In each of these examples,” the lawsuit claims, “Florida courts properly found that (the law) does not prohibit the flashing of headlights as a means of communication,” which the suit calls “a right of free speech.”

The lawsuit estimates that 2,400 motorists in Florida were cited for headlight-flashing between 2005 and 2010. It asks a circuit judge to certify the case as a class action on behalf of those other motorists, which means that if the state loses, it could be forced to return a lot of money.

The state has not formally answered the lawsuit yet.

All of the defendants in the case report to either Gov. Rick Scott or Scott and the three-member Cabinet: highway safety chief Julie Jones; Col. David Brierton, chief of the Highway Patrol; and Ananth Prasad, secretary of the Department of Transportation.

Jones noted that a different section of law allows drivers to flash their headlights at night when they’re passing another vehicle. “Visible blinking of the headlamps,” is how the law puts it.

Asked about that apparent contradiction, the FHP’s Welch said: “This is something that’s going to be dealt with in the litigation. It’s not something I can comment on.”

Jones said he has been besieged with calls from motorists after the case got a burst of attention on several TV stations, and it has attracted attention in out-of-the-way places, too.

In an editorial headlined “Keep flashing legal,” the Panama City News Herald said: “Campbell and other flashers actually encourage motorists to obey the law. Shouldn’t that be FHP’s only concern?”

After Campbell got his ticket, he did some research online and discovered Alexis Cason, 22, of suburban Orlando, who received a similar ticket in 2005, hired the same lawyer (Jones) and won her case.

“For me, this has to do more with the principle than the cost,” Campbell said.

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