Author Topic: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?  (Read 9727 times)

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RebeccainGA

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Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« on: January 21, 2013, 10:01:17 AM »
We were on our way home from my MIL's house last night (multi-state trip, so on the road a while) and on a major interstate (2 lanes in each direction). It was early evening - about 7, so dark but not really late, and we were driving down the highway, about the speed limit, in the left lane passing several semi trucks. The traffic was thankfully not heavy, but as mentioned before, there were several semi trucks in the right of the two lanes going in our directions, so going to that lane wasn't an option for quite a distance. We came up to a car, right as we passed the last of the semis, that was in the left lane, going well below the speed limit (going something like 55 MPH in a 70 zone). The left lane, as is posted all over that road, is a passing zone - you get in it, you pass the slower traffic, and then you get out of it.

DP was taught (and I've heard this from her for years) that if someone is going too slowly in the passing lane, the polite thing (and per her driving test back in the sixties, the law in that state) is that you may flash your lights, twice, and wait for them to pull into the regular lane on the right, and that if someone does that you PULL TO THE RIGHT as soon as it's safe. There was plenty of room for them to pull to the right, and the semis were going slowly enough that there was no way they would have caught up to this car even if they had maintained this slower speed in that lane.

What happened next showed that this car was a super special snowflake. DP flashed the lights, twice, to ask that they get to the right. We were about 3 car lengths back, thankfully, as the guy then slammed on his brakes, almost stopping altogether, then sped back up and swerved into the right lane. We were able to keep control of the car, and tried to let the guy get past us - but the guy kept slowing down. When that didn't work, DP gunned the engine to get past him and get away from the situation, and the guy followed right along with our speed, and then swerved around a car he almost clipped in the right lane, and got in front of us, where he slammed on his brakes AGAIN and then resumed driving very slowly. We had caught up to some cars at that point, and between the road being winding and the increasing amounts of traffic as we got into the city, we got very nervous. We pulled into the right lane, and the guy followed us back to that lane, alternately speeding up and slowing down, trying to get us to 'play his game' - DP took a last second swerve off an exit and we stopped at a gas station to catch our breaths and let the guy get further down the road - he really scared us both. We actually almost caught up to him, though - he actually pulled off the road and was parked with his flashers on a little way down from the exit, and apparently (thankfully!) gave up on us a few seconds before we would have caught him. He was driving a distinctive, white SUV, so we were pretty sure it was him at least.

Undoubtedly this guy was a real jerk, and an SS. However, the inciting incident was what I was wondering about - is a quick, one time headlight flash a big deal? Is it rude? I've never thought it was, and obviously at some point the State of Kentucky didn't, either, since that's where DP got her license back in the sixties. From what I've seen online the legality of it varies wildly, but no where in the southeast US is it illegal, leading me to believe that it's at least somewhat socially acceptable.

Anyone have a different experience?

Firecat

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 10:09:54 AM »
The only time I consider it polite to flash your headlights at someone is when you notice that someone approaching you from the opposite direction. Then it's a warning to them to turn on their headlights.

That said, this guy's response was WAY over the top, but you already know that. I'm glad you and DP are ok and were able to get away from him.

Yvaine

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 10:13:08 AM »
The only time I consider it polite to flash your headlights at someone is when you notice that someone approaching you from the opposite direction. Then it's a warning to them to turn on their headlights.

I've also seen it done to tell people their brights are on.

Shoo

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2013, 10:13:24 AM »
A quick flash to let someone know you need to get by is acceptable where I'm from.

I'd have been on the phone to 911 if somebody did to me what that guy did to you.  That's called menacing driving, and it is illegal. 

Redneck Gravy

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2013, 10:18:52 AM »
The only time I consider it polite to flash your headlights at someone is when you notice that someone approaching you from the opposite direction. Then it's a warning to them to turn on their headlights.

I've also seen it done to tell people their brights are on.

Me too.

I didn't know that it was "standard operating procedure" anywhere in the US that flashing your lights indicates a left lane driver should scoot over - but I like it. 

I frequent the interstate and constantly come up on drivers in the left lane going below the speed limit. IMO this is more dangerous than speeders.  And now in Texas some of the highways have gone to 75 and 80 mph it is very dangerous to come up on some dork poking along in the left lane.  There is nothing wrong with driving below the speed limit if you are in the right hand lane.  I thought it was illegal to drive more than 15 mph below the speed limit on an interstate - anyone know?

RebeccainGA

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2013, 10:21:18 AM »
A quick flash to let someone know you need to get by is acceptable where I'm from.

I'd have been on the phone to 911 if somebody did to me what that guy did to you.  That's called menacing driving, and it is illegal. 

If I wasn't alternately trying to keep the dog from freaking out, watching out for traffic in the other lanes so DP could focus on the wingnut, and trying to not freak out myself, I would have been. If that exit hadn't been there, I still might have managed it - but I hadn't had a chance to get a license plate, and without it there wouldn't have been much to give the cops. I have never been so glad to get home.

stitchygreyanonymouse

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2013, 10:32:52 AM »
Iíve never heard of doing that when wanting someone to get over from the passing lane, but I have been told by truckers that it is a helpful thing to do if one passes you and is trying to get back into the right lane: you flash your lights to let them know they have completely passed you and are clear to move over.

 I can certainly see how one might influence the other into them both being acceptable, but I know plenty of people who donít know about the 18-wheeler bit.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2013, 10:34:11 AM »
A quick flash of the high beams at night to let someone know you'd like to pass has always been acceptable in our area.  Or during the day, a flash of your normal lights is also used to communicate.

But we do seem to be running across more people who seem unfamiliar with the method of communication.

If you are flashing oncoming traffic then you're either alerting them that their high beams are on, their lights are off, or they are approaching a patrol car that you have already passed. 

EMuir

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2013, 10:34:49 AM »
I will never flash to tell another vehicle their brights are on.  We bought a new car, standard lights, on our first highway trip we were flashed several times when we didn't have brights on.

The guy must have been high.  Sorry you went through that.

wolfie

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2013, 10:39:00 AM »
I had someone do that to me too - he just hit the brakes. I decided that I would just move over to the right lane and hope that the car in front of me would realize that the huge truck right behind me wouldn't be able to slow down that quickly and react accordingly. I didn't hear anything so I assume that one of them also moved to the right lane shortly after I passed them both.

CluelessBride

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2013, 10:54:12 AM »
The guy was a real jerk and their is no excuse for his behavior.

To me, flashing your lights is a warning. So I don't think its necessarily inappropriate to flash your lights to warn someone you are behind them in the passing lane. However, if I'm understanding the situation correctly, I think it was a little inconsiderate because of context.

1. From your description you were tailgating (3 car lengths at 55-70 mph), which makes light flashing seem considerably more intimidating
2. The guy had a justifiable reason to be in the passing lane ("We came up to a car, right as we passed the last of the semis"), and may have been waiting for a safe opportunity to move over. The light flashing could be interpreted as "hurry up already", like honking because someone won't make a legal right on read and they are slowing you down. It's up to the car changing lanes to determine if its safe, not to some car behind them.

I think flashing in a situation like this is okay, but its best to be as non-aggressive as possible when you do it (giving a little bit of time, and not tail gating). But again, I'd put this in the inconsiderate category more than the rude category.



pearls n purls

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2013, 10:55:43 AM »
I've never heard of flashing lights as a polite way to let someone know you want to pass, but it could be a regional thing

People will flash lights to get someone's attention for things like forgetting to put their lights on after dark, something wrong with the car, etc.  I've also heard of people flashing lights to warn other drivers of a speed trap, although they could get a ticket for it. 

Lynnv

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2013, 11:05:24 AM »
It is not something I would expect to see here.   Here light flashing is used for a few things:
Oncoming car with brights on or no lights after dark.
Letting oncoming car know of a slow down ahead (speed trap, accident, deer/horse/cow on road).
Letting a semi know they are safe to get back over after passing.   Though I think fewer and fewer drivers of cars and semis know this one. 

That being said, the other car in the OP was being an unsafe nitwit regardless of whether he thought the light flashing was rude or not.   
Lynn

"Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat."  Robert A. Heinlein

Hmmmmm

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2013, 11:12:03 AM »
The guy was a real jerk and their is no excuse for his behavior.

To me, flashing your lights is a warning. So I don't think its necessarily inappropriate to flash your lights to warn someone you are behind them in the passing lane. However, if I'm understanding the situation correctly, I think it was a little inconsiderate because of context.

1. From your description you were tailgating (3 car lengths at 55-70 mph), which makes light flashing seem considerably more intimidating2. The guy had a justifiable reason to be in the passing lane ("We came up to a car, right as we passed the last of the semis"), and may have been waiting for a safe opportunity to move over. The light flashing could be interpreted as "hurry up already", like honking because someone won't make a legal right on read and they are slowing you down. It's up to the car changing lanes to determine if its safe, not to some car behind them.

I think flashing in a situation like this is okay, but its best to be as non-aggressive as possible when you do it (giving a little bit of time, and not tail gating). But again, I'd put this in the inconsiderate category more than the rude category.

I know the recommendation we are all taught is a minimum of a 3 sec rule and that 3 car lengths at that speed really wouldn't account for a full 3 seconds.  But I must say in my area, having 3 car lengths between you and the car in front of you would never be considered tailgating. We usually refer to tailgating as not being able to see the front bumper of the car behind you.  The regional differences I learn on this board are fascinating.

RubyCat

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2013, 11:18:39 AM »
Wow.  That guy was scary.  I was hoping your post was going to end with how you saw the man pulled over by the police.  I guess they can't get them all.   >:(

I've had people flash me to let me know that I forgot to turn on my headlights and I appreciated it.  I do not appreciate the people who zoom up on my tail and flash me because they want me to pull over when I'm already going 70 mph in a 60 mph zone.  The flashing doesn't happen that often.  More often I'll be in the left lane, passing slower moving vehicles, when somebody will zoom up on me and stay there.  Mind you, I'm already going over the speed limit, but the police tend to leave you alone if you're not more than 10 mph over the limit.  If I can pull over and let them go without having to slow down, I probably will and then pull back out to the left.  If I'm going to get stuck going slow in the right lane, I'm staying put.

Now that it's been mentioned, I have seen people flash to warn of problems further down the road.  BTW, a few years ago a man fought a ticket written to him for flashing oncoming drivers to warn of a speed trap, and he won.  I've also seen people flash to signal somebody that they're allowing them to cross or pass in front of them.  Around here, people used to toot their horn for that, but I like the flashing better.