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Commuter Column: Hazard Lights

Kathleen Joyce

If there is one thing that I wasn’t taught in driver’s education, it was hazard lights. What is that button that looks like a triangle? Driving on the road and seeing people using the lights, I started to get the idea, but when is it totally appropriate to use these lights?

Commonly, hazard lights are used on cars that have broken down, been hit or are disabled. The lights are more useful at night so people don’t hit the car and are warned that this car is not working up to its potential. Those who drive with the hood up and hazard lights on are looking for help. Not that I have ever seen this situation before, but I suggest calling the cops if you ever see a vehicle driving like that because it is illegal to drive with the hood up. When driving behind a vehicle with its hazards flashing, the smart thing to do would be to go around it. If that is not possible because you are on a one-way street, slow down and respect the driver because they’re probably just as nervous and angry as you are. How would you feel if you had to drive your broken car somewhere?

Some other uses of the hazards are during harsh weather. During heavy rain or snow when driving on a main road, using the hazards is a good idea since it warns and alerts other drivers to slow down and take it easy because the road conditions are not good ahead. I hope people would be smart enough to not drive like fools in bad weather conditions, but these days you can never assume.

According to the federal law on hazard lights, only vehicles that are disabled or have lawfully stopped can have their hazard lights flashing. Cops may pull you over for using hazards for any purpose because they are afraid you are driving a dangerous vehicle or that you need help.

The hazard lights are trying to warn the people on the road so they know to go around you if you are going slowly or if you need to travel slowly. Hopefully none of us will need to use hazards in the future, but for future reference use them carefully and as always safe driving to all!

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