Most drivers are not aware of when to use hazard lights. The misuse of hazard lights can potentially lead to misunderstandings and cause a safety issue with other road users.
Hazard lights are fundamentally emergency warning lights that turn all of your car’s signal lights to flash at the same time. When turned on, these hazard lights will serve to alert nearby road users that your car breakdown or that your vehicle is going to stop momentarily at the side of the road. If you turn on the hazard lights for no apparent reason, it can cause confusion to other road users, and this could result in a safety issue.
Responsible use of hazard lights makes the roads safer for everyone, so it’s important to know the appropriate situations to use them.
USE THE HAZARD LIGHT…
…when a law enforcement officer is signalling you to pull over
When an officer of the law signals you to pull over, you should turn on the hazard lights. This informs the officer that you are acknowledging and complying with his request. Slow down when it’s safe and stop at the requested spot.
…if your car needs a tyre change or is breaking down
If your vehicle has a flat tyre or feels like it’s breaking down, don’t turn on the hazard lights immediately. Signal your intent and slow down when it’s safe to do so and look for a safe spot to park. Only then should the hazard lights be turned on to warn others of the potential hazard of the parked car.
…when warning others
When you become aware of an obstruction or obstacles ahead, turn on your hazard lights for a short period to warn those behind you of the impending situation. Don’t leave it on for too long — just long enough to be a warning. Likewise, if you see a car ahead with its hazard lights on momentarily, be alert and assess whether the situation is safe for your vehicle to proceed.
DON’T USE THE HAZARD LIGHT…
…in bad weather
If the weather takes a turn for the worse, and visibility on the road is poor, you may feel the need to turn on your hazard lights to make your vehicle more visible to others. However, this is a misconception. With flashing lights on, other drivers may not be able to tell which lane your car is on, or if your intention is to change lanes — this confusion could lead to a collision. It is best to just turn on the headlights and taillights during inclement weather to make your car as visible as possible.
…to park illegally
This is a bit tricky. Don’t turn on your hazard lights just because you feel it somehow mitigates the fact that you have parked illegally. However, an emergency could suddenly arise that forces you to risk parking where you’re not supposed to. In this case, you are obliged to turn on the hazard lights to alert others to your parked car for reasons of safety.
…when slowing down
If you’re slowing down to exit the highway due to an unexpected problem and turn of the hazard light, as mentioned before, turn signals are generally disabled when your flashers are on. That can make it difficult for other drivers to know where you’re going and could result in a crash. Instead, a turn signal will do the job.
If you spot a driver whose hazard lights are on for no apparent reason, apprise him of the situation when it is safe to do so, such as when you are both next to each other at a stop junction. Hazard lights are designed to help drivers in an emergency situation, and they are useful as signals to other drivers on the road. Make use of them responsibly.