Reach of the Law ... ACLU - The Missourian: Editorials

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Reach of the Law ... ACLU

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Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013 6:32 pm

It may be a first for us. While we aren’t 100 percent on board with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on this issue, we are leaning on their side until convinced otherwise.

The ACLU filed a suit the other day in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, that challenges Ellisville’s practice of prosecuting drivers for flashing their headlights to warn other motorists of “radar ahead” or of a police officer on watch to nab speeders. Motorists know that an approaching vehicle that flashes its lights is a warning signal. We slow down. We use caution.

To us that’s a safety practice by motorists — more effective than speed limit signs. It also sends a message that you can be given a ticket for a violation of a traffic law.

An ordinance that makes it a violation to warn other motorists about “enforcement ahead,” and use caution, is a long reach of the law. It can be argued that the safety aspects of warning oncoming motorists has more value than giving a ticket and ordering a court appearance, followed by a fine.

An ACLU spokesperson said people who use their First Amendment right to warn others to drive cautiously should not be punished for their message. After all, the spokesperson said, “the purpose of traffic laws is to promote safety, not generate revenue.”

This is an interesting case. Some people would call it a fun case. At any rate, we slow down and exercise caution when oncoming cars flash us. We are thankful for their alertness and kindness.

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