People craft a lot of ingenious automotive tech. From artificial intelligence to camera-based sensors, new car tech gets more robust with each passing model year. Despite our overall upward trajectory, there are some moments that take us down a notch and make us more humble. That’s exactly what I felt when I heard of someone using flashlights as headlights.

In an amazing moment of clarity, a Washington state police officer pulled over a driver on Interstate 90 for one thing in particular. They were using flashlights as headlights (and no, it doesn’t matter whether or not they were LED).

Flashlights as headlights: An apropos end to the wreck of a year that was 2020

Now, I’m not even going to pretend that the convergence of calendar years means that a bad luck streak is bound to end. We all know that early 2021 has been wrought with unfavorable events already. But it seems absolutely fitting that someone was pulled over for using flashlights as headlights in December.

Reportedly, the guilty driver got into an accident previously and their headlights got all smashed up. Instead of paying to have them replaced (or simply paying for an aftermarket headlight set and DIY-ing it themselves), the driver decided they didn’t need real headlights after all. Instead, they figured, they’d use flashlights.

In an interview with CNN, Washington State Police officer Rick Johnson talked about how he noticed the driver’s headlights were awfully dim while driving on the interstate near North Bend. Upon closer inspection, the officer was able to conclude that the subject was, in fact, using flashlights as headlights.

It shouldn’t surprise you to find out that this is illegal.

wrecked car using flashlights as headlights

Image Source: CNN

Amazingly, the officer reported that the flashlights were even dim for flashlights themselves.

So, what’s the charge for using flashlights as headlights?

If you get pulled over for using flashlights as headlights, an officer has to charge you with something. But what exactly is the offense?

Failing to use headlights or driving without headlights is a common traffic violation. Depending on where you live, this charge can incur a ticket with a fine of up to $200. You can get headlights for less than that (the driver was in a ninth-generation Chevy Impala; a pair of headlights for this ride costs about $100). 

In addition to the fine associated with the ticket, many drivers who are cited with driving without headlights must attend some sort of traffic school class. These classes often cost a fee, which can run up to $75.

Technically, you can defend yourself against any traffic violation, but some are more likely to be overturned than others. Driving headlight-less is not one of them, and using flashlights as headlights is an even more rank violation. All things considered, I sure would love to see that Washington driver try to defend their actions.

As for the officer who stumbled upon this wild card of a vehicle owner, he can’t seem to conjure up a rational reason why someone would do this.

“I don’t know of any car manufacturer that duct tapes flashlights to the front of their cars upon sale,” the officer told CNN. “But you know, I guess this is 2020, right?”

Using flashlights as headlights is not the only DIY extremism we’ve seen

Believe it or not, this move is far from the only one we’ve seen on the streets. In June 2020, one driver decided to use their sedan to tow a hot tub with a small wooden cart. In that same time frame, a guy in an aging pickup truck decided to try to haul a double wide trailer through Alberta, Canada. Everything about these statements is wrong, but sometimes you just can’t reason with human beings.

The only thing I’ve learned from these stories is this. I’m grateful for commercial and industrial shipping professionals who do their jobs right.

Anyway, I’m off to duct tape some flashlights to the front of my sedan.

Rachel Curry
"Hey! My name's Rachel Curry and I'm a full-time writer who loves telling the world's stories as much as hanging with my dogs (and that's saying a lot). A University of Delaware graduate, I've traveled extensively, living everywhere from Ireland to Thailand. Bylines include Matador Network and Delaware Today."

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    6 Comments

    1. People never fail to surprise me.

    2. 2020 was the year of the Macgyvers it seems! I understand why you want the cheap immediate fix, but the cost can be far greater in the end. Whether it be a ticket or an accident due to the dim lights, it is better to just get the proper fix.

    3. This article is hilarious. People never cease to amaze me. I will say they are creative.

    4. This is perfect! If the person who owns this car reaches out to me by replying to this post (and proves they are the real owner) I’ll send them a set of headlights for free :).

    5. I would be so nervous. I would never try to attempt this.

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