Author Topic: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?  (Read 8433 times)

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CakeEater

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #45 on: January 21, 2013, 04:26:43 PM »
Interesting regional differences. If a car behind me flashed its lights , I would perceive that as an aggressive "Get the #@$% out of the way!", not a friendly "please let me pass." Perhaps that's because the only times anyone has ever done that to me I've been going at or above the speed limit, and they swooped up out of nowhere and started tailgating. Not that I'd respond as the driver the OP encountered. That was rather over the top.

I don't necessarily move to get out of their way, though. I've had a couple close calls when I started to move over, just at the moment the car behind me got impatient and lurched over into that lane at the same time (didn't they see me signaling?? They couldn't wait two more seconds?!). I hate having someone ride my bumper, flash lights, and honk their horns at me, but sometimes it's safer to stay where I am.

Me too. And in response to the post above yours, I don't think there is any polite way to communicate, 'Get out of my way'. Presumedly the driver has a rear vision mirror and sees that you have approached at a higher speed than them and they know you'd rather be going faster. All that is perfectly obvious. If they don't move over of their own volition it's because
a)they don't feel it's safe
b)they don't care that you want to go faster.

In the first case, flashing at them will be stressful for them and in the second, it might well be stressful for you as the OP indicates.

I also dislike the practise of flashing lights to 'help' other drivers on the road. Drivers shouldn't be relying on other road users generally to be able to drive safely. If a semi-driver can't see where their back end is, they shouldn't be overtaking. They shouldn't need anyone's assistance to see when it's safe to pull in. Plus, as we've seen in this thread, the driver could be flashing for any number of reasons. The truck driver should just take your 'word' for it that it's safe?

I do a lot of highway driving, and here, sometimes truck driver will flash their right indicator briefly to let a driver who is behind them know that it's safe to overtake. I hate it. I'm not going to pull out into oncoming traffic on the word of a stranger that it's safe. Maybe they're sleep deprived, or can't see a hazard, ar anything. Plus, the right-hand indicator has a meaning. It means that the truck is going to turn right, which sometimes they do. Very dangerous to be overtaking if the truck was in fact indicating that they were going to turn. I'm in Australia where we drive on the left.

Drivers should drive their own drive, do things they can see for themselves are safe, and wait patiently for other road users to do their thing.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 04:29:25 PM by CakeEater »

JeanFromBNA

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #46 on: January 21, 2013, 04:28:51 PM »
Tailgating is a lot more dangerous than flashing your lights.

Had you continued down the interstate into Tennessee, Aggressive Driver could have encountered my Nephew, who would have put another set of flashing lights in his rearview.  It would have been for the best.

wolfie

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #47 on: January 21, 2013, 04:36:29 PM »
My father taught me about flashed headlights to let in a semi (he learned to drive in New York in the 1960's), and I always thought the quick two-blink "thank you" from their taillights was very cool.  Am in northern New England now, and in our area people flash their headlights / high beams as a universal "go-ahead" gesture to someone (semi, car, bicyclist, pedestrian) at stop signs, crosswalks, lane changes, city, highway, etc.

This, and the other posts that also mention it, surprises me.  I had a semi driver once tell me that he didn't like it when people flashed their brights to indicate he could change lanes.  Besides monentarily blinding him, it is something people do when there is danger (an easy and fast way to signal).  I was taught, and he confirmed, that it is better to turn your lights off and on a few times.

I think that's what they meant. The post you quoted is about flashing headlights, not brights (aka high beams). To me "flashing" in this context means clicking on and off.

In my car I have to turn a dial to turn my lights on and off and I just have to click a lever to flash my high beams, so it would never occur to me to turn my lights on and off - it's too much of a  pain to do easily.

ettiquit

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #48 on: January 21, 2013, 04:40:40 PM »
What would be a polite way to let someone know that you want to pass if it's illegal to pass on the right?  Especially if they're going 50mph in the passing lane when the speed limit is 75?

I think the polite thing to do is wait it out. Ok not necessarily forever, but if you come up on someone you want to pass, give them a mile or so (or 2-5 minutes) to notice, and get themselves over. Some drivers don't like being between 2 trucks, or want 4-5 car lengths both in front and in back, and it takes a while to find a nice spot to change lanes. Just because you want to go faster/get in front of them doesn't mean they have to let you pass immediately.

In the OP it sounds like they advanced on this car and right off the bat flashed their lights, hence it being seen aggressive. No doubt the front driver noticed a car was now behind them, yet OP's driver didn't wait for the driver to do anything, just jumped right to "move over NOW!" type signaling.

What is the other driver supposed to notice?  That I'm behind them?  How will they know I want to pass if I don't do anything?

I tend not to flash my lights if I can see it would be difficult for the person to move over, and even when I do flash them I don't expect them to move immediately. 

This is interesting: http://www.mit.edu/~jfc/right.html

In my state, you're allowed to stay in the left lane if you drive the speed limit.  If you go under, it's illegal.

Regardless, it's good to know that the light flashing isn't a global practice!

AylaM

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #49 on: January 21, 2013, 04:44:49 PM »
My father taught me about flashed headlights to let in a semi (he learned to drive in New York in the 1960's), and I always thought the quick two-blink "thank you" from their taillights was very cool.  Am in northern New England now, and in our area people flash their headlights / high beams as a universal "go-ahead" gesture to someone (semi, car, bicyclist, pedestrian) at stop signs, crosswalks, lane changes, city, highway, etc.

This, and the other posts that also mention it, surprises me.  I had a semi driver once tell me that he didn't like it when people flashed their brights to indicate he could change lanes.  Besides monentarily blinding him, it is something people do when there is danger (an easy and fast way to signal).  I was taught, and he confirmed, that it is better to turn your lights off and on a few times.

I think that's what they meant. The post you quoted is about flashing headlights, not brights (aka high beams). To me "flashing" in this context means clicking on and off.

In my car I have to turn a dial to turn my lights on and off and I just have to click a lever to flash my high beams, so it would never occur to me to turn my lights on and off - it's too much of a  pain to do easily.

In mine I have to turn the car on with the emergency brake engaged to get the car on without the lights.  Otherwise they just come on automatically.  Once they are on they don't go off until the car does.

In my experience a flash of lights form oncoming traffic is polite communication.  From traffic behind you it is rude and threatening.

StarFaerie

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #50 on: January 21, 2013, 04:57:08 PM »
I'm in Australia. Here, a flash of the lights is a warning that your lights are not on, are inappropriately on high beam, there is something wrong with my car or that there is a danger coming up (usually kangaroos on or near the road or a speed trap). If someone flashes me (behind or ahead) my immediate response is to slow down to give me more time to discover and respond to whatever they are warning me about.

The sign that someone wants to pass is that they have come up behind me faster than I am going and are still behind me. I have a rear view mirror to inform me about that.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #51 on: January 21, 2013, 05:00:11 PM »
I'm really curious about the concept of a flash of the lights being aggressive or threatening since it has been part of my cultural driving norm forever.  For those who do see it as aggressive driving, is it because you've experienced it accompanied with tailgating or someone speeding up on you very fast? 

I'm not going to stop the practice, but I do dislike the idea that those unfamiliar with the practice in our area would feel threatened by me.  So if we are driving down a two lane interstate with a speed limit of 70 mph and I come up behind you going 65 mph in the left hand lane.  I wait for 2 to 5 minutes, and though there is ample room to merge right without you having to decrease your speed, you remain in the left lane.  I'm 2 or 3 car lengths behind you and I flash my lights are you still going to feel threatened by me?  And what are you feeling I am going to do? 

And I know most of you would not remain in the left lane but would merge right.  But last weekend, I was in the above situation.  Two drivers in front of me had passed this driver on the right. 

Layla Miller

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #52 on: January 21, 2013, 05:00:11 PM »
Midwestern US here, and flashing lights are usually either a signal that something is wrong or an aggressive act.  Usually if someone has flashed their lights behind me while I'm driving, it's accompanied by angry gestures, yelling, etc.  Often I've encountered it when I'm immediately behind someone else going the same speed--so moving over wouldn't benefit the person flashing their lights at me!

Interesting to see how the regional differences break down, though.  Next time it happens to me, I'll try to assume it's someone from an area where this is usual.
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sweetonsno

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #53 on: January 21, 2013, 05:05:30 PM »
I'm with what seems to be the consensus. If you want to pass someone, the onus is on you to move into another lane and get around them. I would never flash my lights at someone except to alert them to some sort of danger (say, they had forgotten to turn on theirs). Any other application reads as aggression.

I think Ayla summed it up best: from oncoming traffic, it's a heads-up about something. From a car directly behind you, it seems more like a threat. As StarFaerie said, I get my "move over" cue from someone coming up behind me moving faster than I am going.

Lynnv

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #54 on: January 21, 2013, 05:13:59 PM »
This, and the other posts that also mention it, surprises me.  I had a semi driver once tell me that he didn't like it when people flashed their brights to indicate he could change lanes.  Besides monentarily blinding him, it is something people do when there is danger (an easy and fast way to signal).  I was taught, and he confirmed, that it is better to turn your lights off and on a few times.

I learned from my dad, who was a long-haul semi driver for 15+ years (in the 60's).  My sister's boyfriend, who has been a long-haul and regional driver for over 30 years confirms it.  He does prefer blinking the lights on and off, as my dad did, but says that an awful lot of folks use the flash of the high beam instead.   He says he still checks and doesn't just take the other driver's flash as the final word.   But it is nice to get a confirmation.   

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Firecat

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #55 on: January 21, 2013, 05:26:31 PM »
Midwestern US here, and flashing lights are usually either a signal that something is wrong or an aggressive act.  Usually if someone has flashed their lights behind me while I'm driving, it's accompanied by angry gestures, yelling, etc.  Often I've encountered it when I'm immediately behind someone else going the same speed--so moving over wouldn't benefit the person flashing their lights at me!

Interesting to see how the regional differences break down, though.  Next time it happens to me, I'll try to assume it's someone from an area where this is usual.

POD. This is pretty much how it's generally worked out for me (and generally I'm either at or slightly above the speed limit unless road conditions are bad). I do try to move over when I can safely, but have had enough people abruptly swing around me from behind that I'm cautious about it.

kherbert05

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #56 on: January 21, 2013, 05:32:14 PM »
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 spn eed 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?
This is going to be a region by region thing.

Texas we
1. Quick flash to ask to get by what you describe
2. Quick double flash to tell opposite direction car they don't have their lights on or they have their highs on and are blinding you.
3. Repeated quick flashes at the opposite direction to warn them of a hazard in their path (storm, flooding, wreck - not really supposed to do it for cops/speed traps).

I think the only mistake you made OP is not calling 911 if you had a mobile phone. You would have been justified to report his dangerous driving. The fact he stopped and waited for you all is scary. I had someone go road rage on me on the way to work. I drove to a substation, kept the doors locked and leaned on the horn. A officer came out and the road rage person took off. The officer followed me down the road to work just in case.

Redneck Gravy  I think it is illegal to go less than 45 on highway/freeway in a normal truck/car in  Texas. On Highways you can drive farm equipment with hazards on and slow vehical sign. If you are in the middle of nowhere and limping to safety you can use your hazards and drive on the shoulder (for non-Texans the shoulder I'm talking about is almost as wide as a regular lane built for this purpose and for the farm equipment to be as far over as possible. In rural areas at night larger trucks and school busses have a lower nighttime speed limit (65 or 60 mph)- the signs are black with white text. (I10 between Kerrvile and Junction has this)
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RegionMom

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #57 on: January 21, 2013, 05:37:46 PM »
See, that is why I was so weirded out on that long hill country one lane drive in the dark-

he went from pale emergency blinkers far behind me to lights on long hold on super bright high beams, always on a no passing area, with me and the truck ahead of me going 70 (I think the speed limit was 65) and sometimes had to go slower for turns.
 
And when we got to a two a two lane passing area, he did not get ahead, even though the truck and I both scooted to the right lane for the mile or so we had two lanes.

So when he finally gunned in on a solid line on a curve with oncoming traffic, i physically could feel him...angry or not, he was like a passive aggressive driver and dangerous.

usually, a flickering of the lights is a warning, and is ok. 

Emergency blinkers mean caution, slow driver, and high beams mean clueless or agressive driver.  Alternating long time high beams with emergency blinkers, oddly not tailgating and even lagging behind, refusing to pass in a passing lane, and then gunning it and narrowly avoiding a wreck, yeah, I was weirded out, and had no idea what he wanted.  if there had been a turn off road, I might have taken it to let him gain a few miles on me...
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CluelessBride

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #58 on: January 21, 2013, 07:06:47 PM »
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.

Oh, I'm well aware that the 3 sec rule and the 1 car length per 10 mph rule are mostly ignored, especially when traffic density is high. Which also explains why a simple rear-ending often turns into a multi-car pile up. And unfortunately to prevent the more dangerous situation of a car cutting in between you, its often necessary to follow the overall road culture.

But when the road is mostly empty, I don't think there is any excuse for following too close. And I think pulling up within 3 car lengths of someone who is going 55 mph (all the while decelerating from your cruising speed of 70mph) and then flashing them your brights has the potential to feel very intimidating. Its taking an already questionably unsafe following distance and making it seem even imposing.


What would be a polite way to let someone know that you want to pass if it's illegal to pass on the right?  Especially if they're going 50mph in the passing lane when the speed limit is 75?

To me the key isn't *if* you flash the lights. It's how/when that determines whether it feels aggressive or a friendly heads up. If you do it immediately upon coming up behind a car: aggressive. If you are tailgating/following closely: aggressive. If there is another legal option for you to pass: aggressive. If they are going the speed limit on a 1 lane road and you want them to speed up: aggressive.

But if them moving out of the passing lane is the only legal option for passing, you have been behind them for a little while and they haven't noticed you, you are at least 1 car length back per 10mph, and traffic in the right hand lane is nonexistant, then I think its more likely to be interpreted as a friendly "hey, I'm behind you".

It's sort of like honking at a green light. If you are the second car back at a light and you honk the instant the light turns because the car in front of you hasn't started moving, its rude. But if you wait and its clear that they haven't noticed the light change, a light and short tap to make them look up is okay.

jaxsue

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Re: Flashing your lights - rude, or communication?
« Reply #59 on: January 21, 2013, 07:42:21 PM »
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.

That was the norm in many places I've lived.

OP, I wonder if he was DUI? No matter what, whoever was the passenger in your car should have called the police.

Edited to add: the wondering if the driver was under the influence is something most of us would think of. I am not saying it's a sure thing. His/her reaction was so OTT as to be shocking. Wondering about this is not a ridiculous leap, IMO.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2013, 07:55:45 PM by jaxsue »