How To Deal With Flashing Lights From Other Motorists

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

As a new or learner driver, one thing which can be a little confusing is when you see cars flashing their headlights at you.

This can happen in lots of different scenarios and can mean different things.

You may be tempted to flash your lights at other motorists yourself if you have picked up bad habits from another driver (e.g. a parent).

The reality is that while there is no law being broken by flashing your headlights, you could be doing more harm than good and may end up falling foul of the law.

There are many reasons why a fellow motorist may flash their vehicle headlights at you and often it is difficult to know what their problem is, or why they have decided to flash at you.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common reasons that motorists flash their headlights.

To Warn Other Drivers Of Police Speed Checks:

One common occurrence on UK roads is that motorists will flash their lights at oncoming vehicles to warn them of an upcoming police speed check.

This may be a temporary camera set-up or a police team doing manual speeding checks.

While this is a nice gesture, it’s actually counter-productive in terms of improving behaviour on British roads.

Furthermore, it could land the motorist who is flashing in trouble.

See our useful information section below for more information on this.

To Invite You To Pull Out Or Go First:

It’s also very common for drivers to offer fellow motorists the right of way in certain situations by flashing their lights.

A road with enough passing room for one vehicle or a busy junction are two particularly examples where this may occur.

By doing this, it’s actually quite dangerous and may put you in a tricky situation if the car you flash is immediately involved in an accident.

They may try to pin liability for the accident on you, so it’s best to be safe and not to flash at all in these scenarios.

To Indicate A Hazard In The Road:

A very valid reason for motorists flashing their lights is to warn of a hazardous situation in the road ahead.

This could be animals or debris in the road, for example.

The idea behind this is that motorists will slow down, thus reducing the danger.

To Alert You That Your Own Lights Are Off Or Faulty:

If you have a problem with your own lights, or perhaps you have forgotten to turn them on, motorists may flash their lights to try and alert you of the situation.

As An Aggressive Action:

Finally, some drivers decide to use the process of flashing their lights rapidly if they feel you have driven in a dangerous or oblivious fashion.

They use this as an aggressive action which can leave some drivers, especially those less experienced, worried or intimidated by their actions.

What You Will Learn

Our guide has been written to educate you on when a driver may flash their lights at you, when there is genuine reason for doing so, and what trouble could be caused by flashing the lights at the wrong time.

As ever, we will split this up in to our easy-to-follow sections:

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

You should not flash your headlights for many of the reasons that we described in the introduction.

The only purpose for flashing your lights really is if there is a hazard in the road ahead or to let other drivers know you’re there.

The flashing of your lights should be intended to slow oncoming traffic down by alerting them to the fact there is a hazard ahead or to notify drivers that you are there if they appear to not be able to see you.

So, if you have a genuine purpose for flashing your headlights, here is how you should do it.

  • Once you have safely passed a hazard in the road, ensure your own speed is controlled and safe.
  • If oncoming traffic is approaching, simply flash your lights two or three times at regular intervals.
  • Do not do it really quickly or repeatedly as this can startle fellow motorists.

While you will rarely need to flash your lights at other motorists, what should you do if somebody flashes theirs at you?

Follow these steps:

  • Ease off your accelerator so you can begin to reduce your speed in a gradual and controlled manor.
  • Unless there is clear and immediate danger, do not slam your breaks on and stop suddenly.
  • Continue to steadily slow your speed as you progress down the road. Exercise caution and be observant. Look ahead of your car to see if there are any upcoming hazards in the road that you may need to avoid.
  • If, after a few minutes, you pass no hazards and there is no other obvious reasons for a car to flash their lights at you, it may be an idea to find somewhere safe to pull the car over. Reduce your speed, check your mirrors and signal before moving to the side of the road.
  • Once safely stopped, if it is safe to do so, step out of your car and check your vehicle. You should be looking at your own lights first and foremost – motorists may flash to indicate a broken light, lights unnecessarily on main beam or if you do not have headlights on at all.
  • If your car seems okay and your lights are working as they should be, then get back in your vehicle and prepare to move off safely.
  • Once you have done so, continue to exercise caution when driving in case any hazards do appear.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

When you’re on your driving test, if you choose to flash your lights for any reason then it’s likely to be down to the discretion of your examiner as to whether there was genuine cause for doing so.

You’re probably not directly breaking any laws through the action of flashing your lights, however, there are occasions when you may need to do so during your test.

Be prepared to explain to your examiner why you did.

If your examiner does not agree, there will likely be a penalty for having done so.

Useful Information

As we’ve outlined already, you’re not breaking any law by flashing your lights, however, indirectly you may be doing so.

Here are two laws that you could fall foul of.

Flashing To Warn Of Police Speed Checks:

If you flash other motorists to warn them that they are approaching a police speed check then you are liable to be prosecuted if you are caught for doing so.

You will be in breach of section 89 of the Police Act 1997, “obstructing a constable in the execution of his/her duty.”

This could land you with a fine of up to £1,000.

Flashing In An Aggressive Manner:

If you decide to flash your headlights in an aggressive manner to other motorists, perhaps in reply to some poor driving on their part, then you could also end up falling foul of the law.

You may be charged with dangerous driving or even furious driving, both of which can carry penalty points and fines.

Final Thoughts

Flashing your lights is so easy to do when you’re driving, you can find yourself doing it without a proper purpose for doing so.

To summarise, you should only ever flash your lights to warn other motorists of your presence or to warn of a hazard in the road ahead.

Doing so for any other reason could land you in hot water, either legally or through being blamed for an accident.

Further Resources