You’re driving home in the afternoon and on the way back you spot an unmarked cop car parked by the side of the road doing speed checks. Instinctively, you flash your headlights to warn oncoming drivers about the speed trap ahead. Seems normal enough, but is this act of goodwill legal?
Headlights image from Shutterstock
Flashing your high beams to warn others of hazards and police on the road ahead is an unspoken road etiquette that most Australian drivers know about. While there aren’t any specific laws nationally that deal with flashing headlines to alert others, there are strict rules in place when it comes to the use of high beams.
As stipulated in the Australian Road Rules (2006) Section 218 for the use of high beams:
(1) The driver of a vehicle must not use the vehicle’s headlights on high-beam, or allow the vehicle’s headlights to be used on high-beam, if the driver is driving:
(a) less than 200 metres behind a vehicle travelling in the same direction as the driver, or
(b) less than 200 metres from an oncoming vehicle.
When you flash your headlights as a warning, it usually occurs within the distance limits stipulated in the legislation so, technically, it is illegal. In fact, the Queensland police has used this rule to issue fines and incur demerit points to drivers who flash their high beams to warn others of speed camera and law enforcement vehicles ahead.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, police are fine with drivers flashing their headlights to warn others of speed cameras. So the law on high beam use is adapted by law enforcement agencies in different states accordingly but police are technically allowed to penalise you if you do flash your headlights as a warning to other drivers.
Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.