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Warning motorcyclists of police ahead

Mt Glorious pass overtake over solid white lines warning

Many riders make an effort to warn other motorcyclists if they see a police presence, speed camera or radar unit, but is it legal and what is the best method of warning others?

The main methods seem to be some sort of hand gesture, flashing the headlights, phoning or texting mates, posting on social media or even blowing the horn.

However, there are problems with all these methods.

Hand gestures

The main problem with hand gestures in Australia is that we ride on the left side of the road, so the closest and most visible hand is the right which can’t be taken off the throttle, unless you have cruise control or are riding downhill.

However, the hand gesture is the best method for alerting an approaching rider if you have just passed a patrol car or cop on the side of the road.

It is legal and, if you do it right, it’s safe and understood by most riders.

There are several gestures you can use.

The whirling single finger in the air indicates a police patrol car’s “disco lights”, the “one-wing flap” is an indication to slow down, or you can touch the top of your head with your palm, which is an American gesture.

Some also use a thumb-up to say the road ahead is clear and a thumb down to say there is some sort of hazard ahead, which could be the police.

Read about the various rider hand gestures.

Flashing your headlightsHarley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra FLTRUSE warning

This is a universal warning, but it can be considered illegal by police in some states.

Australian Road Rules (2006) Section 218 say you can’t flash high beams within 200m of an approaching vehicle as it can startle other motorists.

Seems strange in the daytime that a 100-watt headlight bulb could be dazzling when there is a  multi-billion-watt lightbulb in the sky!

However, it is definitely a problem at night.

There is no specific rule about not using high beam to warn of police ahead. (Note, there are such laws in some other countries. For example, the laws vary from state to state in the USA.)

Some police say this is preventing them from the execution of their duty and motorists have been fined in Queensland and NSW.

However, you could argue that you are assisting them in the execution of their duties – that is if their duty is to make our roads safer and slow down motorists at that particular “black spot” as determined by the positioning of a radar unit.

If police duties are to collect revenue, then, yes, you are preventing them from doing their tax-collecting “duty”.

One of the problems with using your headlight high beam is that it might not be seen by approaching riders.

Flashing your motorcycle headlights are not as effective as in cars as they are smaller.

Motorcycles also bounce up and down more than a car, so it is difficult to determine whether you’ve just been flashed or the bike hit a bump.

Horn honkingRoyal Enfield Classic Horn warning

This is not widely accepted and people can misinterpret it as abusive.

In some countries, it is downright rude or even illegal.

However, I have certainly paid attention when I’ve been honked at and thankfully avoided inadvertently speeding past a hidden radar trap.

If you need to use the horn to alert someone, make it a courteous and short double-tap, rather than a long blast.

Technology warningsMobile phone while riding warning

There are a lot of social media sites being set up for riding communities to share road conditions and police presence.

However, it requires riders to check in before a ride. It’s not really an immediate signal like a hand gesture or flashing light.

After passing a recent radar trap, my friend instantly pulled over and texted his mates who were still finishing their coffees and were due to ride past this way soon.

You could also phone colleagues you know who may be passing the area.

However, one reader noted that in Queensland it is an offence to use the internet or SMS to warn about traffic enforcement under the summary of offences act 2005 sect 24A.

There are also navigation apps that have crowd-sourced information about speed camera sites, such as the Australian-developed Speedo Minder or Waze.

They are not illegal to own or use. These apps also provide live and useful information about crashes, traffic snarls, etc.

Printed signs

One Melbourne man has gone a step further and created “Speed camera ahead” warning signs which can be printed out (CLICK HERE) and used to warn drivers.

You can keep a stack of them in your backpack!

If you decide to use them, be aware that you should not deface public or private property.Police warning speed camera


Consider it doing your public duty for safety and courtesy to fellow riders to warn other riders of a police presence or road hazard such as an oil spill, crash, gravel, etc.

It could hardly be considered illegal since it’s nothing more than what radio stations do when they alert motorists to crashes, traffic jams or speed camera locations.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you do it carefully, legally and courteously.

But for how long do you continue to alert approaching riders?

On a popular motorcycle riders with a lot of riders going past, you could stop fairly soon. Otherwise you might “spoil the fun” of riders by warning them too far in advance. You just have to hope the riders behind you will alert them in time.

But it’s a dilemma when you stop gesturing a warning. Have you just placed another rider in jeopardy of copping a fine?

  1. I’ve heard of people honking the horn at stationary radar vans parked on the side of the road. I can see the sense of that – I guess its like a courtesy wave. Those poor people inside these vans must be bored senseless so a friendly honk might be a nice way to acknowledge there hard work and help keep them awake!

  2. just like speed cams is not a bad thing to warn for police.
    the objective is to make motorists aware and keep them in low speeds which might save their lives.
    so police’s work is done just by being present there. Just like a speed camera.

  3. If I’m still close to a radar I’ve just passed I do the arm flaps or a few rapid flashes and tail that off to a single quick flash the further away I get.

  4. Every weekend we hear the same refrain; Visible policing is the way to go. A TV and radio advertisement even says that “if he had known there was a speed camera ahead, he would have slowed down….” – and survived.

    So there it is in back and white, publicity and warning about Police presence is officially sanctioned and encouraged by the Police themselves.

      1. One could do this by saying something like… “It would be in your best interests to ride at the speed limit on Mt Mee today!”

  5. Its UnAustralian to not warn of cash points ahead.

    The waze app is also very useful way to be notified of cash points

  6. I am old enough to remember all those promises when they bought in radar guns and speed camera’s. One by one they have been whittled away by the bureaucrats and politician trying to reinforce funds the next pre-election handout.
    I know the original Victorian policeman who wrote the very first study advocating radar speed guns. All his recommendations and warnings have been ignored in time. So much so that it is quite possible that a Policeman could be charged with “bringing the service into disrepute” over these obnoxious and clearly revenue raising activities. Police these days have a hard job with all the technical aspects for both enforcement and prosecution. They are backed into a corner and must also meet targets and personal performance criteria, I am the first to admit that it is a hard job.
    Having driven extensively in third world countries and first world Auto barns @ 200k for hours on end and the concept of ‘driving to conditions’ is lost here. We have become speedo watchers and like most health and safety, the cure causes more issues than the original problem.
    The level of frustration by the average motorist is shown by the warning to fellow inmates of the asylum that there is a problem ahead. Camera’s in 60k zones just before a 100k on ramp, in area’s where there is 5 zone changes in one kilometer, at the base of hills etc etc. No “crash zone” anywhere near these blatant and obvious collection zones.
    No change will be made to any of these practices until we all as a community call the policy makers to account. As individuals do we stop on the side of the road and warn others? do we take active steps to warn of these entrapment locations? I do and will continue to do so, the boys did not fight in the trenches for us to be so regulated.
    Why do I feel like a frog in hot water?

    1. A radio ad says that “if he had known there was a speed camera ahead, he would have slowed down and survived..”
      Time and again, we are told that Police presence slows people down and saves lives. If this is true why is it such a heinous crime to warn others of Police presence? This is the face of the dishonesy we have to deal with.

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