Stop flashing your hazard lights in the rain! There’s a reason it’s illegal!
Flashing hazard lights serve as a sure sign that the rainy season has descended upon Florida. I’m sure for the past 4 months, your driving experiences has been complicated by flooded streets, curtains of rain pounding your windshield and the nonsensical sight of blinking yellow or red lights on the tail of the car in front of you on the road.
Why do drivers turn on their flashers during a storm? Do they think it enhances their visibility? Do they think they are emitting a signal to other drivers of “hey, I’m right here. Pay attention”? Maybe it’s prevent them from being rear-ended?
They would be wrong on all counts. In fact, hazard lights worsen the danger of driving in a downpour. Driving with your hazard lights on is also illegal in Florida — and in most states —punishable by a $129 fine. The only time you can use them when in motion is if the vehicle is in a funeral procession.
“Hazard lights are just that — the signal of a hazard, and you use them when you have pulled over to the side of the road or are disabled or in an accident,” said Matt Nasworthy, American Automobile Association public affairs director for Florida. “You cannot use them when you’re moving. It only causes confusion. Other drivers have no idea what you’re doing.” See a list of the penalties from other states.
It’s against the law to use your hazard lights while driving. Be safe, don’t drive in the rain with hazard lights on.
But if you live in Tampa Florida, you’re accustomed to the automatic reaction of certain panicked, misinformed drivers who assume the protocol during rainy weather is to turn on their flashers. To educate those drivers, the Hillsborough Expressway Authority used its message boards to warn against turning on hazards in the rain.
Flashing hazard lights actually reduce visibility, making it difficult for other drivers to see your turn signal or brake lights or causing them to think you are stopped or stalled in the roadway.
“If your lights are indicating some kind of emergency, the drivers following you don’t know whether to slam on the brakes or swerve around you,” Nasworthy of AAA recently said. “You may think you’re being cautious but you’ve misinterpreted the purpose of hazard lights.”
Conversely, a car that is legitimately stalled with lights flashing may get rammed in the back end by a driver who doesn’t anticipate proper braking distance because he thinks the car is moving, Camacho said.
“When it’s raining, don’t make sure your hazards are on; make sure your headlights are on,” he said.
And don’t switch to high beams in rainy or foggy conditions “because the light will reflect back and cause glare,” Nasworthy said.
Tampa Attorney Martin J. Hernandez
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