Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Motoring

Affordable used cars auctioned online, every day

Flashers, truckers, and the code of the road

By Jane Speechley - 26 November 2016 7

Car headlight

I’ve always been fascinated by the secret codes motorists use to communicate with each other.

It’s like our own little language, or ‘code of the road’. Rarely taught, but generally picked up along the way.

From a very young age, like many of us, I watched as the driving adults in my family gave the all-important wave to acknowledge and thank those who showed courtesy on the road.

Many years later, and while on a road trip with a friend, I learned to briefly flash my headlights to let an overtaking truckie know it was safe to move back into the lane.

This is particularly helpful at night, when distances can be harder to judge.

Give it a try, and chances are you’ll be rewarded with a left-right-left or right-left-right indicator flash as a thank you.

I spent quite some time doing this incessantly, getting a bit of a thrill out of the acknowledgement.

It’s also routine in some countries to flash your headlights before overtaking, just to let the driver in front know what you’re doing. Though isn’t that what your indicators are for?

Here in Australia, flashing your headlights is more often seen as a kind of ‘visual horn’ – done to warn of a hazard ahead or as a (slightly aggressive) way to let another driver know they’ve done the wrong thing by you.

Of course, one of the most common – and not so secret – codes among drivers, and by far the most controversial, is the headlight flash used to warn of a speed camera ahead.

You might think the police would be really unhappy about this, but in fact, Victoria’s Traffic Superintendent was quoted as saying he is comfortable with the practice. From his point of view, the aim of a speed camera is to get you to slow down, and if a flash of the headlights does that instead, it’s all good.

You shouldn’t assume the same leniency in other jurisdictions, though – including the ACT. The rules may vary between states, but generally it’s against the law. You could be hit with a fine and loss of points for inappropriate use of your headlights or even impeding police work.

I must admit, I haven’t seen a truck driver use the speed-camera-warning method, but apparently for them, it’s two flashes rather than just one.

Truck drivers can be very valuable allies on the road. Remember, they’re spending a lot of time out there, and because they’re up so high, they can see much farther ahead than you.

As an example – there’s an interesting and potentially dangerous phenomena called velocitisation.

If you haven’t come across the term before, it describes how – after travelling at high speed for a long time – a driver loses alertness and their ability to accurately judge speed and distance.

Ever had to suddenly slow down for roadworks on the highway? Then you’ve probably felt it.

This can be a real problem if there’s an obstacle, such as roadworks, or maybe a sudden traffic jam.

For this reason, you’ll often find truck drivers will put their hazard lights on when they spot vehicles slowing down ahead. It’s an early warning system for other truckies, and other motorists too.

The truckers code can be more specific too: many truck drivers will flash their headlights three times to warn of some other oncoming hazard.

This may or may not be followed by three flashes of an indicator to let you know which side of the road the hazard is on. Pretty interesting, huh?

On a more poignant note, I also read of a fast-fading practice among truck drivers passing the scene of an accident.

In years gone by, when there was a crash involving a truck, other truckies would form a slow procession for the next 10-20 kilometres after the road opened up, as a mark of respect for their colleague who was injured or killed.

Isn’t that nice? Certainly much better than just rubbernecking at the scene, which is what most of the rest of us do.

Finally, if you’d show more respect on the road, you might take a note out of the Japanese driver’s handbook.

A little while ago, this video popped up in my newsfeed, showing how Japanese drivers courteously thank each other with a quick flash of their hazard lights.

I’d argue our customary Australian wave is just as good. Although anyone who accepts my courtesy and doesn’t give me The Wave back can expect a headlight flash in the least, and more likely, a smiling wave of the middle finger…

Over to you – what secret codes do you use on the road? Have I missed any? Are there any others you’d like to suggest?

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
7 Responses to
Flashers, truckers, and the code of the road
1
Kim F 12:38 pm
26 Nov 16
#

I will warn on-coming cars of a speed-trap on roads with an 80k or more limit. In a 60 zone, they deserve the ticket.

2
justin heywood 3:14 pm
26 Nov 16
#

I always warn my fellow drivers of the local council’s little white revenue-raising vans, but I let the cops do what they can to get the idiots off the road.

Like the OP, I too find most truckies pretty professional and courteous, especially given the discourtesy, incompetence and dangerous driving they must witness every day.

3
rommeldog56 2:09 pm
27 Nov 16
#

justin heywood said :

I always warn my fellow drivers of the local council’s little white revenue-raising vans, but I let the cops do what they can to get the idiots off the road.

Yeah – late last year, to warn of a mobile speed camera van, I did the flashing lights thing. Only problem was, there was an unmarked police car in the stream of cars I flashed. Apparently, its illegal to do that in Canberra. Anyway, got a written “warning”.

4
Bonkers 1:25 am
28 Nov 16
#

Quite different in the UK. A flash of the lights is normally an indication of “on you go”, eg if you’re trying to turn right in busy intersection, folk would often stop, give you a flash and let you through.

The UK seem to have a better attitude in general to driving, in that we’re all in it together, and foregoing a couple of seconds to let someone through benefits everyone as a whole. The Australian (not Canberran BTW, I’ve seen it in most capital cities) attitude is every person for themselves, and if you can shave 5 seconds off your trip it’s worth it.

Which is why when I’m trying to change lanes in traffic and someone pulls back to let me in, I always give them a wave to say thankyou. And I’m often appalled at the number of times where I hold back to let someone in and get nothing.

Basic manners aren’t really hard, but they seem to be dying a slow death.

But back to the topic – I heard a trucker on Triple J many years ago say how useful it was when drivers indicated that they were safe to move back in by flashing their lights, and have done so ever since, regardless of time of day. And have pretty much been rewarded by a display of blinker alternation, or hazard lights, as a display of thanks.

5
JC 11:22 am
28 Nov 16
#

Bonkers said :

Quite different in the UK. A flash of the lights is normally an indication of “on you go”, eg if you’re trying to turn right in busy intersection, folk would often stop, give you a flash and let you through.

The UK seem to have a better attitude in general to driving, in that we’re all in it together, and foregoing a couple of seconds to let someone through benefits everyone as a whole. The Australian (not Canberran BTW, I’ve seen it in most capital cities) attitude is every person for themselves, and if you can shave 5 seconds off your trip it’s worth it.

Which is why when I’m trying to change lanes in traffic and someone pulls back to let me in, I always give them a wave to say thankyou. And I’m often appalled at the number of times where I hold back to let someone in and get nothing.

Basic manners aren’t really hard, but they seem to be dying a slow death.

But back to the topic – I heard a trucker on Triple J many years ago say how useful it was when drivers indicated that they were safe to move back in by flashing their lights, and have done so ever since, regardless of time of day. And have pretty much been rewarded by a display of blinker alternation, or hazard lights, as a display of thanks.

The uk a flash also means get out of my bloody way. Very common on motorways if you are even half a second slow in changing back to the left hand lane.

Though it is interesting what you say about flashing to let people come out. My wife learnt to drive in the UK and the Highway Code made a big deal about not waving people through (didn’t specifically mention light flashinf but same idea) and the reason for it was it has the tendency to create confusion which in turn increases the chance of accidents.

I personally never really thought about before I read that but it is pretty spot on and it is something that I now never do for that very reason. I do however make gaps for people to merge or change lanes if I see they have no other option. But if for example there is nothing or a decent gap behind me then they can wait and pull in behind.

6
Pork Hunt 4:41 pm
29 Nov 16
#

There is the Land Rover Defender wave.

7
curmudgery 10:22 pm
01 Dec 16
#

Courtesy and good manners make driving calmer (pardon the pun). These days I find myself nodding a thank you to the motorists who’ve stopped for me to use the pedestrian crossing and I try to make eye contact with cyclists at crossings and lights. It works.

And Canberrans, I think, are particularly good with the unwritten code of the ‘zipper merge’ where traffic from opposite lanes are both trying to turn into the same street: a left-turner then a right-turner, then a left-turner then a right-turner, then his turn, now my turn. Getting onto London Circuit from the theater complex car park is classic – very civilised.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Search across the site