Much like different regions can feature different language dialects, different regions can also have their own ‘driving language’.
There’s a raft of things that Kiwi motorists ‘just know’. Up in Auckland it’s common to say thank you to people who let you into traffic by blipping your hazard lights. Some will also flash them if motorway traffic has come to a sudden stop, to warn drivers who might not have noticed.
But perhaps the most common act in New Zealand is the act of flashing your lights at oncoming traffic to tip them off that police are just around the corner — whether it’s a stationary unmarked camera van, or even a liveried officer that’s already pulled someone else over.
The big question is; is doing this an illegal act? On one side you’ll have those who decry the action, believing that all who do wrong should be allowed to be caught and booked for their offence.
On the other hand, consider this — if you’re watching someone breaking the law, is it more just to allow them to continue or to inform them that what they’re doing is wrong?
TVNZ’s Seven Sharp has answered the question. In an interview with Brake Aotearoa’s Caroline Perry, it confirmed that the act — while discouraged — is legal. At least for now.
“If you are speeding, you are more likely to be involved in a crash, and it’s more likely that someone is to be seriously injured or killed in that crash as well,” Perry said. “We want to ensure that drivers who are putting lives at risk on the road are being penalised.”
This is consistent with Australia, which is in a similar position of discouraging the act publicly without it being an offence. That said, in New South Wales you can still be pulled over by police for flashing your headlights at other motorists to ‘dazzle’ them.
The Aussie state also has another road rule that states drivers aren’t allowed to use their high-beams within 200 metres of other drivers (either travelling in the same direction or going the opposite way).
Both New Zealand and Australia also have a curious law, where it’s illegal to ‘encourage another person to obstruct or resist a police officer’. According to Community Law New Zealand, this can include “warning a friend who has committed an offence that the police are coming”.