Headlights of Death
Date Added: March 21, 2004
If this scenario sounds familiar, maybe you heard it back in the 1980s, when it originated. Or, perhaps you saw the 1998 film in which it featured prominently. Either way, or if you've just encountered it via e-mail, you've been influenced by an urban legend.
One of the officers who works with the D.A.R.E. program has passed along this following warning and has asked that it be shared with all drivers.
This is an extremely serious matter.
It you are driving after dark and see a car without its headlights on DO NOT flash your lights! DO NOT blow your horn or make any signals to the driver of the other car.
There is a new common gang initiation 'game' going on in the streets. New members being initiated into a gang are to drive along the streets without headlights on and until someone notices and flashes their headlights or makes some sort of action to signal the other car, the gang member is required to chase the vehicle and shoot at or into it in order to complete his initiation requirements.
Please share this information with family, friends, and anyone else you can reach. Should you have any questions or information, please call your local police department.
This warning is to be seriously taken. This is NOT a joke. Please forward this on to everyone you know on e-mail and in person. IT COULD SAVE SOMEONE'S LIFE.
The chain letter above dates back to at least 1997, but has been haunting inboxes and fax machines since 1993.
Like most urban legends, this one is popular because it describes a scenario that is very possible. It also exploits a common societal fear: that even well-meaning law-abiding citizens can fall victim of bizarre crimes - just for trying to help others out.
The lesson drawn is that it is better and safer to let others take care of themselves. The moral strikes a universal chord and regionalized versions of this warning have popped up.
Subject: Fw: RCMP WARNING
Important police warning
Very scary, now moving west.... started in... Manitoba, now in Saskatchewan and moving west. This came directly from our Driver Training People who got the warning . Pass this to anyone you can. One of the officers who works with the dare program has passed along the following warning and asked that it be shared with all drivers. This is an extremely serious matter.
If you are driving after dark and you see a car without its head-lights on do not flash your lights, do not blow your horn or make any signals to the driver of the other car...
"Warning - We have received a warning from the London Ambulance Service of activities in their area. Whilst the below behaviour is not common place in our area I have spoken with Greater Manchester Police and their risk assessment of the action is to circulate it as a potential.
The London Ambulance service have units closely associated with the Police based in South London who are basically Fighting Gang Crimes. The 'street gangs' in London (particularly South London at present, but it is sure to spread) have initiation tasks which new gang members have to carry out to be admitted to the 'gang'. The latest craze is to drive around, deliberately with no lights on their cars. The first person who 'flashes' them, points at them or sounds their horn at them, has to be followed by that new gang member in their car, who then has to fire a shot into that vehicle with no regard as to who is inside.
Our official instruction is that if we see a vehicle with no lights on, we are NOT to 'flash' it etc. and the advice to friends and family is that you should ignore any vehicles you see without lights. I would ask that you pass this info on to all your family, friends and colleagues and who knows, it may save a life."
Word-of-mouth accounts of this supposed gang initiation scenario go back as far as the early 1980s. The legend was given visual form in the 1998 film "Urban Legend."
While some real-life crimes similar to the one described have been reported, the legend actually pre-dates most of them. In many cases, officials have labeled the events "copycat" crimes - inspired by the legend, not proof of it.
Helping the legend along are incidents wherein the e-mail above is picked up and passed on by real law-enforcement or public safety personnel. They lend their authority to the note through False Attribution Syndrome. This is where the "DARE Officer" attribution in one of the examples above came from. (DARE is a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in the U.S.) At some point, a DARE officer received the letter and forwarded it, adding his or her identity and authority to it.
Similar events led to the addition of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and the London Ambulance Service bylines.
Many pass this note on with the caution that they're not sure it's true, but it can't hurt to be safe. Unfortunately, it can hurt. This chain letter, and others like it, incite panic, lead to copycat crimes and bog down officials with questions about legends, occupying time they could be using to address real crimes and other matters of public safety.
While the potential for copycat crimes means you probably shouldn't flash a car without headlights on, you shouldn't ignore a car driving dark, either. Gang initiation or not, someone driving after dark without headlights poses a significant safety hazard to himself and others on the road. If you see such a situation, maintain a safe distance and notify authorities as soon as possible. Break this chain.
References: About.com, Snopes.com