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Why Do Cars Flash Their Lights at You from Behind?

Why Do Cars Flash Their Lights at You from Behind

It depends on the situation.

Mostly it’s done as a way to communicate with other drivers.

There are legitimate as well as aggressive reasons why the motorist behind is flashing their headlights.

In the United States, flashing your headlights isn’t necessarily illegal. In fact, it’s protected by the 1st Amendment.

It’s important to properly assess the situation when someone is flashing their headlights at you. These are 7 possible reasons why you’re being flashed.

1. Saying Hello

It could be that the car behind you is just trying to say hello.

I do this. Say for example I see a friend in a car I recognize pull out of the local Olive Garden. I might give them a quick flash of my high beams to say hello as I pass.

2. Giving Way

I’ve encountered this one most often on road trips where motorist tend to be (at least from my experience) more courteous than city drivers.

Say for example I’m on the interstate and I pull out into the left lane to overtake a few cars and I’m trying to get back into right lane.

If a fellow motorist notices I’ve been signaling from the left lane trying to get back into the right lane for quite some time.

They often give me a quick flash of the high beams to let me know it’s safe to move in.

Drivers also do this to let pedestrians know it’s okay to cross.

3. Indicating Something Wrong with Your Car

The flashing driver could be warning you about something wrong with your car.

That driver behind you might be flashing their headlights to alert you to an issue with your car.

When I was a teenager, I was flagged down because an issue with my Volvo caused the taillights to stop working.

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When the driver behind finally got me to pull over. He alerted me to the fact that he almost crashed into me at a stop sign because my taillights weren’t working.

I was grateful for his warning and quick thinking.

4. Rural Roads

If you're on a rural road, the car behind might be flashing their headlights to warn you they are about to overtake you.

Country roads look open and scenic, don’t they? Inviting you to plant your right foot down and rip it up.

Often on these roads there are only two lanes: one for traffic going one direction and another for traffic going the opposite direction.

This is the beginning of problems as country roads hide many dangers that force the driver to be cautious – mostly of other drivers.

In the city or more densely populated areas, there’s more law enforcement presence to keep bad driving in check.

Those checks don’t exist quite as regularly in rural areas leading to hazardous driving behavior. Another issue is that passing lanes are scarce in rural roads.

So, if you get flashing headlights coming from behind you, more than likely that driver is giving you fair warning before he or she overtakes you.

5. Going Too Slow

The flashing lights from behind might be trying to encourage you to speed up.

The reason why the cars behind you are flashing their headlights is because you’re going too slow.

There may be instances where you may be going the posted speed limit and find other cars whizzing past you.

If that’s the case, don’t be audacious. Let them pass. Or move into a slower lane.

6. Road Rage

Never engage anyone experiencing road rage.

There is no limit to the lengths people will go to let you know how they feel about your driving. And these days, it doesn’t take much to trigger another driver.

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Forms of road rage include tailgating, honking in anger and of course rude gestures like the California hello.

This is important: DON’T ENGAGE.

Instead, change lanes if you can do safely. Consider getting off the freeway entirely.

And for goodness’ sake, never get out of your car to confront someone experiencing road rage.

Instead, stay in your car and call the police, that’s what they’re there for.

7. Why is the Semi-truck Behind Me Flashing its Headlights?

Flashing headlights from an 18-wheeler should be taken especially seriously.

18-wheelers often flash their lights to thank fellow drivers. Especially in busy traffic situations when other drivers make space for them to change lanes.

Sometimes a semi might flash its headlights after you pass it on the freeway. The driver is letting you know there’s room to change into their lane.

I’ve noticed that this mostly happens if there’s a lot of traffic behind you that’s looking to pass you and you’re holding them up.