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When Should I Use My Hazard Lights?

Published on Jun 24, 2022 by Thomas Law Offices.

hazard lights

Warning other drivers of a potential emergency is not easy. Although you give your full attention to driving, that focus usually does not extend to inside of other people’s motor vehicles. You cannot ascertain whether there is an emergency by communicating either through facial expressions or words with another driver in a different vehicle. 

Instead, we have our hazard lights. When activated, the hazard lights in the front and rear of your vehicle flash in sync to warn other drivers that some type of emergency is taking place. You can activate your hazard lights by locating and pressing the button with the red triangle on your vehicle’s dashboard. 

Hazard lights should be used with care, though. Those who use their hazard lights during inappropriate times may cause confusion among other drivers and can actually create circumstances that lead to a car accident.

When To Use Your Hazard Lights 

Using your hazard lights in the right situation can limit your risk of being involved in a serious accident. As a safe driver, you should familiarize yourself with the situations in which it is acceptable and safe to use the hazard lights on your car. 

  • When you’ve been in an accident. After an accident is the ideal time to use your hazard lights. Before exiting your vehicle to check on the other driver or to view damage to your vehicle, turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers to the emergency. Advise the other driver to turn on their hazards if they have not. Having your emergency hazard lights on can also help emergency responders locate the scene of the accident if someone needs prompt medical attention. 
  • When you’re changing a tire, or your car is broken down. Having to exit your vehicle to put on a spare tire or look under the hood can be stressful, as the roadway (even the shoulder) is usually only occupied by motor vehicles. Using your hazard lights while dealing with these types of issues will alert other drivers to the emergency so that they can give you and your vehicle a wide berth. 
  • When you’re in a funeral procession. Funeral processions are somber events that many people find important to the grieving process. Members of funeral processions should turn on their hazard lights to signal that they are participating. Other drivers should yield to funeral processions and should not attempt to merge into their line of vehicles. Funeral processions also typically travel slower than the average speed of traffic. 
  • When you’re being pulled over. If a police officer pulls into the lane behind you and turns on their lights, you are supposed to pull over at the earliest safe location. Not all roads feature a safe space to stop a vehicle, though. If a police officer is indicating that you should pull over and you do not believe you can do so safely, turn on your hazard lights to indicate that you have seen the officer’s lights and intend to pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. You can leave them on during the traffic stop, but oblige an officer’s request if they ask you to disable them. 

Although there are exceptions as seen in the list above, a good rule of thumb is to only use your hazard lights if you are experiencing an actual emergency. If you are ever unsure if you should use your hazard lights in a given situation, stop and think about whether you would consider it to be an emergency. If so, enable your hazards. 

When Not to Use Your Hazard Lights 

The purpose to hazard lights lies in the object’s name—a hazard. You should not enable your hazards if there is no emergency situation that calls for it. Even if you have seen other drivers use their hazard lights under similar circumstances, do not use yours when the situation does not call for it. 

  • When traffic is heavy. Drivers are responsible for constantly scanning the road in front, next to, and behind them. When constantly taking note of the road, drivers should be able to easily identify upcoming traffic jams. There is no need to turn on hazard lights simply because traffic is heavy, as this is not an emergency and rather something that you can easily see with your own eyes. 
  • If it is raining. Heavy rain can limit visibility, making it hard to accurately see ahead of you. While it might seem counterintuitive, adding more light to this situation does not help. When you turn on your hazard lights during heavy rain, the light will reflect off the falling rain drops, creating a glare and making it more difficult for everyone on the road to see properly. If it is nighttime your regular headlights will suffice. 
  • When you are illegally parked. Ideally, you should never illegally park. If you choose to do so anyway, do not turn on your hazard lights. Your hazards are intended to communicate an emergency to other drivers, and your lack of a parking space is not an emergency. Turning on your hazards does not make it acceptable to illegally park either, so you may still be ticketed for your actions. 

Illinois state law prohibits driving with your hazard lights on, so be sure to leave your vehicle’s hazards unengaged while driving unless you are a member of a funeral procession. 

When To Get Help After an Accident 

You might require quite a bit of help after a car accident. If you were seriously injured, getting immediate medical help should be your first and top priority. Unfortunately, we all know that going to the doctor in Illinois is not cheap. 

At Thomas Law Offices, our Chicago auto accident lawyers do not think injury victims should have to worry about medical bills. With years of experience and practical knowledge under our belt, we strive to make sure that each and every one of our clients knows their legal options for securing compensation after a serious car accident. We are here for our clients every step of the way and are ready to work tirelessly for you to make sure that an insurance company does not pressure you into accepting anything less than what you deserve. 

If you were not at fault for the car accident that caused your injuries, do not hesitate to contact us at Thomas Law Offices. We’re prepared to meet with you for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the details of your case. 

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Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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