Federal Court Upholds Georgia Traffic Stop Over Fast Blinker

Driving with a turn signal that blinks “too fast” is a potentially criminal act under a ruling handed down Tuesday by the Eleventh Circuit US Court of Appeals. The three-judge appellate panel set the precedent after considering a traffic stop that took place on December 12, 2013, in Greene County, Georgia.

On that day, Deputy Sheriff Robert McCannon stopped the Erickson Meko Campbell’s Nissan Maxima on Interstate 20 in Georgia after noticing his turn signal blinked rapidly when making a lane change. The deputy also said he saw the gray sedan cross the fog line once, then after he turned on his dashcam, that it crossed a second time. When the video footage of the stop showed no such thing, prosecutors stuck with the blinker as justification for the stop. The case is unusual because Campbell’s blinkers were in fact working, and the video showed the signal was clear and visible. During the traffic stop, the deputy checked all of the lights on the Maxima, and none were burned out. There is no standard in the Georgia Code for how fast a turn signal should blink.

“But the rapid blinking is an alert that something, be it an expired bulb or faulty wiring, might not be in good working condition,” Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat wrote for the court. “Thus, the rapidly blinking turn signal provided McCannon with reasonable suspicion to believe that Campbell’s car was in violation of the traffic code.”

The judges pointed to a provision in Georgia law requiring all equipment being kept in “good working condition,” suggesting Campbell’s blinker was not in compliance because it was in working condition, just not “good” working condition.