James B. Hunt, Jr., Governor
Joe Hamilton, Acting Secretary
Patty McQuillan, Director of Public Information (919) 733-4926

FEBRUARY 18, 1999

A headlight hoax has been making its way around the state, despite efforts to quell the ruse by the Department of Correction.

The hoax, in the form of a flyer, states that the Department of Correction is warning drivers not to flash their headlights when they see a car without its headlights on or they may be shot by gang members. Correction managers are asking that anyone who sees one of these flyers, to please pull it down and throw it away.

Apparently, the hoax originated in California and made its way to North Carolina several years ago, having hit just about every major city in the U.S. since the early 1990's. Even elementary school teachers were sending the warning home with their students, despite efforts of the news media to squelch the rumors.

The hoax got another boost from a Correction Enterprises* safety officer. Darla Hinnant said she received the information from another state agency and issued a memo Nov. 6, 1998, to alert Enterprise staff and ask them to please warn others. When she found out that there was no truth to the flashing headlight story, she immediately issued another memo, Nov. 17, asking employees to please disregard the memo.

However, the information has continued to spread, showing up in newspapers and being posted on community bulletin boards, saying that the Department of Correction has confirmed the information.

"There is not an ounce of truth to this urban legend," Acting Secretary Joe Hamilton said. "We are truly sorry that our department bears any responsibility for spreading this mis-information, and hope the hoax meets a quick and total demise as the public learns the truth. We hope this will be a lesson to well-intentioned employees, that unless information is verified, none of us have any right to alarm folks unnecessarily."

* (Inmates working in Correction Enterprises make such products as the state’s highway paint and signs, prison uniforms, janitorial products and furniture.)

Flash Your Headlights and Die! - Urban Legends and Folklore

Urban Legend Has Some Area Residents Scared - WRAL-TV, Raleigh, NC - 11/16/98

Police unable to shed light on e-mail 'warning' - News and Observer of Raleigh, NC - 11/14/98

Internet Chain Letters

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