In the state of Wyoming, it’s perfectly legal to flash your lights at other drivers for any reason.
That’s not the case in all states, however. The laws vary widely across the U.S. In Michigan and North Dakota, it’s illegal to flash high beams within 500 feet of oncoming traffic.
In Missouri, the right to flash headlights is considered a First Amendment right, which is the case in Florida as well. In Ohio, it’s only illegal to flash headlights at oncoming drivers to warn them of speed traps if those drivers are actually speeding.
In California, you need a lawyer to decipher when it is and is not legal to flash lights.
Laramie County Sheriff Brian Kozack told Cowboy State Daily that it’s not at all illegal in Wyoming to flash high beams at drivers for any reason.
While the practice is sometimes used to warn drivers going in the opposite direction of police speed traps up ahead, it’s also used to signal to other drivers that you intend to let them change lanes.
Gloria Nielsen, who lives in Glendale, Arizona, and has family here in Wyoming, regularly drives across the country.
She told Cowboy State Daily it used to be common practice for drivers to flash their lights for a trucker who signaled signaling that he or she wanted to change lanes. After letting the trucker in, Nielsen said, truckers would traditionally flash their hazards to say thanks for the courtesy. This exchange of mutual road respect, she said, has fallen by the wayside.
“Today, I still flash my lights, but I probably get a thank-you blink one time out of a hundred,” Nielsen said. “Where are those old time truckers when I need them? I sure have a lot of smiles from those blinks.”
Kozak said he flashes his high beam at truckers to let them in, and he teaches students in driver’s education class he conducts to do it as well.
“It’s a courtesy thing,” Kozak said.
Kozak agrees it’s not as common of a practice as it used to be.
“Maybe it’s new generations. Parents aren’t teaching their kids that. But it’s still okay to do,” Kozak said.
Kyle Holloway, a trucker who lives in Gillette, told Cowboy State Daily it’s not as common as it used to be.
“I grew up around old-school truckers all my life. So I’ve known to do that ever since I was a little kid,” Holloway said.
He said that, besides not giving a flash to truckers, drivers don’t give truckers enough room. Most often, Holloway said, truckers try to drive in the right lane, but when they get into a big city, that lane ends and traffic gets thick.
“Then here we are trying to fight to get in. If that car behind us would just back off for half a second, we could get in and not even impede the flow of traffic,” Holloway said.
Darryl Orr, a long-haul trucker who lives in Cheyenne, has a different theory as to why truckers don’t give a thank-you flash. Due to the shortage of truckers in America, he said, there’s a lot of recruitment from Russia, India and the Middle East.
“They’re not your average 1970s truck drivers,” Orr said, and they aren’t always as well versed in U.S. road etiquette as American drivers.
He said he hears it from people at warehouses all over the country that the foreign drivers don’t seem to understand these courtesy practices.
“They’re rude to other truckers, too,” Orr said. “Like I’ll flash my lights at them to let them know it’s clear to pass, they’ll just ignore me.”
He said they also don’t always understand littering violations. Truckers often have to relieve themselves on the go, and the courteous thing to do is to toss the bottle in the garbage at the next stop. Orr said that’s not the case with the foreign truckers.
“They just chuck them out the window,” he said. “It’s disgusting and it makes the rest of us look bad.”