Using This Warning Signal on Michigan Roads is Only Illegal if You Do it Wrong
Let's be honest here, we've all done it. We've either driven with our high-beams (AKA "brights") on without realizing it only to be flashed by other drivers or you've been the one flashing to warn fellow drivers of potential trouble ahead.
It's Michigan, it's a common courtesy to warn other drivers of deer. Sometimes, though, you may worry about "brighting" the wrong person...especially if that "wrong person" is in a cop car.
Is it illegal, though? Let's get into Michigan's driving laws on it...
What Flashing High-Beams (Brights) in Michigan Can Mean
Now, we're not talking about the jerks with those headlights that are just painfully bright all the time, though we'd really like to give them a piece of our minds...
We're talking about when you grab the little lever that turns your brights on and off and use it to "flash" other drivers on the road.
As we mentioned before, it's a great way to let others know to slow down for deer ahead but it also helps warn of other hazards in the road.
A lot of times, it's to let someone traveling the opposite way that their brights are still on and they need to turn them off.
Other times, though, it's to warn other drivers to take it a bit easier as they go to pass the area you just passed that there is a cop sitting ahead.
Michigan's Laws Regarding High-Beams
On page 78 of "What Every Driver Must Know" issued by the Michigan Secretary of State, they break down the state's laws regarding headlight use like when you are supposed to have them on and, of course, when it is appropriate to use high-beams.
"It is illegal to use or even flash high-beam headlights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle," they say. "Also, dim your lights for pedestrians and cyclists."
In addition to the fact it is illegal to violate the 500-feet policy, they do also say you should never use your high-beams behind other vehicles...I accidentally left mine on behind a big, lifted truck on a backroad in my hometown and the guy's reaction was one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me (another story for another time).
With brights, it's all about common courtesy and common sense but we guess the legality of using or flashing them really comes down to being within 500 feet or not.
Flashing Your Brights to Warn of Cops Ahead in Michigan
"According to Michigan State Police, flashing your lights to warn other drivers in the state isn't against the law," Up North Live reported back in 2014.
You know when you're cruising on the highway and the person in front of you slams on their brakes as they're about to pass a cop? They were obviously speeding but they DID slow down? We guess we can view this like that.
You're warning others to slow down and as long as you are not within 500 feet of the other vehicle, you are good to go!
However, cops don't necessarily love when people do this, though it's not for the reason you might think.
Trooper Rich Hall told Up North Live that he appreciated the warnings before working for the Michigan State Police and now worries it could send mixed or confusing signals.
"Drivers can't receive a ticket for flashing their lights at someone in Michigan, but they can still be pulled over if law enforcement think they are in violation of another law," Up North Live reported. "Or if they feel a person in the vehicle could be in danger.
Hall said they will probably want to investigate that vehicle to make sure everyone's safe and added it's "Because we don't know if they are flashing their high beams at us, or at somebody else."
So, no, you won't be ticketed unless you violate an actual law that warrants the stop (ie: flashing brights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle) or any other further illegal activity that happens during the stop.
While we hope that policy never changes, can we PLEASE do something to regulate just how bright someone's regular headlights can be because, damn!