Can You Get a Ticket for Flashing Your Headlights at Oncoming Cars in Indiana?
No matter how long you've been driving, chances are there has come a time when you've been heading down a dark road or two-lane highway and you see a vehicle coming toward you in the opposite lane with its brights on. At first, it's not a problem but in the back of your mind, you hope they'll turn them off as they get closer to you because you know it will make it hard for you to see in front of you as your eyes try to readjust once they pass. As they get closer, and the lights get brighter, you realize they're not going to turn them off because they either forgot they were on, or they just don't care. So, you give them a little, let's call it a "courtesy blink" with your brights as a way of saying, "Hey! Your brights are on and you're blinding me." But, are you breaking an Indiana law by doing that?
What Indiana Law Says About Flashing Your Headlights at Oncoming Cars
Pete Hanson, with our sister station Kat Kountry 105 in Owatonna, Minnesota recently researched this same question for his state and found out that is indeed illegal to flash your headlights at oncoming cars in the North Star State. Curious, I decided to do some research of my own to see if the same was true for us here in the Hoosier State.
A quick Google search sent me to a 2014 Facebook post by the Indiana State Police Post in Jasper where a similar version of the question was asked by a resident during a "Mailbag Friday" Q&A. In this instance, the resident wanted to know if it was illegal to flash their headlights at oncoming traffic to warn them of a law enforcement officer ahead that is trying to catch speeding drivers. The trooper answering the question did not provide their name but cited Indiana State Code 9-21-7-11 which reads:
Except as provided in subsection (b), a vehicle may not display flashing lights.
(b) Flashing lights may be displayed on a vehicle as follows:
(1) On an authorized emergency vehicle.
(2) On a school bus.
(3) On snow-removal equipment.
(4) As a means of indicating a right or left turn.
(5) As a means of indicating the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring unusual care in approaching, overtaking, or passing.
(6) On a vehicle used in a funeral procession.
The way I interpret "flashing lights" is the kind you find on emergency vehicles or the hazard lights we all have on our vehicles. The trooper did note that at the time of his post, there had been tickets issued to drivers for flashing their headlights in other parts of the country, but when the drivers challenged the tickets in court, the judges were ruling that a driver flashing their headlights was protected under the First Amendment as it was ruled as an extension of your freedom of speech.
Since Indiana code doesn't specifically reference flashing your headlights, it is not illegal to do anywhere in the state. However, the trooper did note that if you are seen repeatedly flashing your headlights at other drivers, it can be a contributing factor to "aggressive driving" which could land you in some trouble. He also suggested playing it safe and not doing it. You can read his full answer here.
What You Can Do if Oncoming Cars are Using Their Bright Headlights
DriversEd.com suggests not staring directly into the lights as they approach, which sounds obvious, but for some reason, our brains want to point our eyes right into them, like we going to stare into the soul of the driver using them. It's like when something smells bad we take another whiff because our brains are weird.
Instead, DriversEd suggests shifting your focus to the right edge of your vehicle, using the line separating the lane from the shoulder as your guide, and keeping the offending car in the corner of your eye until they pass.
Feel free to call them a dirty name too. That's not a suggestion from anyone, that's just something I do to make me feel better.
[Sources: Indiana State Police Jasper Post on Facebook / Indiana General Assembly / DriversEd.com]