Some London residents have become the latest to be caught out by an aging urban legend that claims drivers are in danger from gang members participating in a violent initiation ritual.
The legend, which spreads via word of mouth, fax and email, warns drivers that if they see a car driving without headlights after dark, they should not signal the car’s driver in any way.
According to the hoax, a new gang member is driving the car operating without lights as part of an initiation ceremony. Supposedly, those who signal the driver will be followed and shot at by the “gang member” to complete the “initiation”.
Police have reassured the public that no such crimes have currently been reported in London. The hoax began circulating via email and fax back in 1993 and may have originated from even earlier stories involving motorcycle gangs. It was also given new life by the 1998 film “Urban Legend” which featured the initiation ritual described.
While incidents resembling the one described in the hoax have actually occurred, they are thought to be copycat crimes inspired by the legend itself.
Bogus warnings such as this one should be deleted rather than forwarded. Indeed, such messages are far from harmless. They can waste the valuable time of police staff who have to field endless enquires about such spurious claims. They can spread unnecessary fear and alarm within a community. At worst, they may encourage criminals to act out the myth in real life.
Over the years, there have been a number of versions of the hoax.
One of the officers who works with the DARE programme has passed long 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 headlights on do not flash your lights, do not blow your horn or make any signals to the driver of the other car. This is a new common gang initiation game going on the streets.
The new member being initiated drives along without his headlights on until someone notices and flashes their headlights or makes some other action to signal him. The gang member is now required to chase the car and to shoot at or into the car in order to complete his initiation requirements.
Please take this seriously. This is not a joke. Please pass this on to everyone you know on email and in person. It could save someone’s life!