What are Hazard Lights and When Should You Use Them?

by Zutobi · Updated May 03, 2023

Emergency lights for vehicles, often known as hazard lights, are a must-have in today’s world. The uses for them are many: you can express the urgency of your travel to other drivers, bring attention to a hazard when you’re stationary – or in the case of law enforcement, alert the driver to halt for contact with an officer.

There are wrong and right situations in which you can use hazard lights. This article will go over everything you need to know.

What are Hazard Lights?

Hazard warning lights are a driver-controlled system that causes all turn signal lamps to flash at the same time. Its purpose is to alert oncoming cars to the presence of an emergency, thus the name. They generally flash repeatedly to better draw other drivers’ and passengers’ attention.

car with it's hazard lights activated
Hazard lights help alert other drivers of an emergency or danger.

When Should You Use Hazard Lights?

There are several situations when using your emergency flashers are recommended.

1 – If Pulled Over by an Officer

If law enforcement signals you to pull over, putting on your hazard lights will demonstrate to the officer that you recognize their signal and are complying with the request.

2 – If Changing Tires on the Side of the Road

When your vehicle becomes a potential threat to other road users, it is typically permissible to turn on your hazard lights.

car with burst tire
Activate your hazard warning lights if your tire blows and you need to stop on the side of the road.

3 – If Your Vehicle Broken Down

If your vehicle has become a temporary threat and you are waiting for help, use your flashers to alert other drivers of your presence. This is especially important when your vehicle has broken down in traffic.

When Should You NOT Use Hazard Warning Lights?

1 – When Trying to Park

You should not turn on your hazard lights if you are parking illegally or looking for a parking spot. If you need to go to the shop quickly, park in a designated parking area.

2 – Attempting to Exit a Road

Avoid activating hazard lights if you have an emergency and must exit the highway. The primary reason for this is that when you activate your emergency lights, the turn signals are deactivated. Other drivers won’t be able to anticipate where you’re going in that situation, which can lead to an accident.

3 – While in Heavy Traffic

While your emergency lights can increase your visibility, they can also make it harder for other drivers to predict where you’re going. It is because turn signals are disabled in certain vehicles while flashers are activated.

4 – When Driving in Bad Weather

If the weather is so terrible that you need to turn on your emergency flashers due to limited visibility, pull over to a safe spot and switch them on to alert other vehicles that you are parking there until the weather clears. Otherwise, you should not use your hazard lights as it will only confuse other drivers by making it more difficult for them to anticipate your position and what you’re trying to do. Regular car lights and turn signals are the better alternatives in this case.

Regular car lights and turn signals are the best choices in most bad weather conditions.

5 – When Trying to Turn

Using hazard lights as a turn signal is dangerous and could cause an accident. Like we’ve said before – when these lights are turned on, they blink on both the left and the right sides. This means that drivers behind you won’t know what your next move is. When turning, simply turn on either turn signal to indicate where you are going.

Prepare in Advance so You Don’t Have to Use Your Flashers

Making sure you’re prepared is your best bet for not having to use hazard lights.

For example, before you begin driving, make sure you inspect your vehicle. You don’t have to do this every time, but making it a habit can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. In addition, inspect your tires and look under the hood of your car every couple of weeks. Check fluids and engine oil level. As you become more acquainted with your vehicle, you will begin to notice when things are out of place then take the necessary steps.

Aside from getting into the practice of maintaining your car regularly, prepare for bad weather and poor road conditions. Consider changing your travel arrangements if the weather forecast is not favorable or if there will be heavy traffic on your way to your destination.

By doing these preventive measures, you won’t be put in a situation where your car breaks down and you have to use your emergency flashers, which is best for everyone.

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