The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Moral of the story? Slow down

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  • My radio station of choice when in the car is a talk station in Kansas City.
    During one segment, the male host is an ultra-conservative and the female host an ultra-liberal.
    They often disagree.
    Last week, a lengthy discussion was about a legal case in Missouri in which police arrested a man for flashing his headlights at an oncoming car to warn of a radar trap ahead. The hosts never explained how the flasher was caught, but he was given a ticket for “impeding an investigation.”
    He challenged the ticket in court, and was found guilty. But, a higher court overturned the decision based on the man’s First Amendment rights.
    So, it’s no longer a crime in Missouri to flash lights to warn of a speed trap.
    Interesting indeed.
    The First Amendment mentions religion, free speech, free press, right to assemble, and right to petition for a redress of grievances.
    When you break the rights down, flashing headlights has absolutely nothing to do with religion, speech, the press, assembly, or redress of grievances.
    I suppose the closest it comes is if you say the man had a grievance against police speed traps and he redressed said grievance by flashing his headlights to warn unsuspecting oncoming drivers of the trap.
    Quite a stretch, I would say.
    Both hosts went on about the case, which did not seem to have a ton of importance to me. I’ve been doing the same since I got my driver’s license, and have appreciated drivers who’ve done the same for me.
    I’m still puzzled by how the flasher got caught, as he’d already passed the speed trap and was going the other way when he flashed.
    The discussion caused a flashback for me to my enjoyable days of being stationed in Germany many moons ago.
    I had to go to Stuttgart for a meeting, and on the way back, which was not on an autobahn but a two-lane German secondary highway, I was going perhaps a tad over the speed limit.
    But, that was not fast enough for several impatient drivers behind me, who roared around me at every straight stretch of highway. They were obviously in a much bigger hurry than was I.
    As I entered a small farming village, I noticed two young girls, ages 6-8, jumping up and down, grinning, and holding a sign made of a cardboard box. There were two hand-lettered words on the sign: “Achtung radar,” which in English is “Warning radar.”
    Since I was coming down a mountain, I was going more than a tad over the speed limit, so I slowed down. But, three or four German drivers behind me ignored the sign, roared around me as we entered the village, and disappeared around a bend in the highway.
    Page 2 of 2 - When I made the turn, going at or below the speed limit because I believed the girls’ sign, there ahead were about a half dozen cars stopped on the right, and several uniformed police officers were busily writing each a ticket.
    I smiled as I drove by, unimpeded and unstopped, and continued on my way.
    The lawbreakers had seen the signs and ignored them. I’d seen them, saw the girls having a ball, and immediately figured they were sincere and the sign was legitimate.
    I suspect there is a moral there, but I’m not real sure what it is. Perhaps a moral could be “take people at their word until their word is proven to be otherwise.”
    I could think of absolutely no reason for the girls to have made a sign to warn folks if it was a joke. Surely they would have gotten no enjoyment from seeing a lot of cars slow down as they entered their village.
    But, I’m still wondering about the First Amendment and flashing headlights.
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