One of the more frustrating aspects of driving is witnessing others disregarding rules or blatantly misusing safety features for their own personal gain. A good example, and one to which you’ll most likely be able to relate, is hazard light abuse.

You’re practically guaranteed to see at least one person a day misusing his emergency hazard lights in order to park somewhere he shouldn’t. Although the proper use is in the name, many people believe that these flashers can be used as personal parking permits because they indicate to passersby that the car is stopped (legally or otherwise). However, this assumption is woefully and dangerously incorrect.

What You Risk When You Use Your Hazards as a Personal “Free Parking” Permit

Although there isn’t a federal law regarding the legal use of hazards, every state has its own interpretation of when and where hazards should and should not be used. According to the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) Digest of Motor Laws, in most states hazard lights should only be used by emergency vehicles, if you’re in a funeral procession, if your vehicle is stopped or slowed down as a result of an actual traffic hazard (including when you’re on the shoulder with a flat tire or engine trouble), or when you’re forced to travel slower than 30 mph for safety reasons.

The lights should never be used to indicate that you’re only “dropping someone off,” or “parking (illegally) for only a few minutes.” Hazards should only be used to indicate to other motorists that there is an unavoidable traffic safety problem. If you are using your hazards for any other purpose, you could cause the safety issues they’re meant to avoid.

Some risks include:

Safety risks

  • Obstruction of emergency vehicles or traffic backups
  • Danger to the passenger you are dropping off or picking up in an unsafe zone
  • Turning collisions if you are parked too close to an intersection
  • Increased road rage caused by improperly parking or stopping
  • Rear-end collisions caused by sudden stops
  • Increase risks to good Samaritans as they attempt to pull over, stop, or cross traffic to help you with what they assume to be an emergency situation.

Legal risks

  • Ticket for driving with hazards or parking illegally using hazards
  • Automatic points on your license for abusing hazard signals
  • Ticket or imprisonment for blocking emergency vehicles when illegally parked with hazards
  • Prosecution for involuntary manslaughter if your illegal use of the lights directly results in a fatal accident or delay of emergency vehicles resulting in a death
  • Summons for injury and damages hearing if your hazard use results in an accident where the victim was seriously hurt or suffered monetary damages

What’s Your Take?

Whether you’re one of the many drivers who creatively uses your hazards or just a witness to it, you probably have an opinion on the subject. Please share your thoughts and stories in the comment section. Hearing about your frustrations and irritations helps up prepare the most relevant legal advice for our future clients.

You can also make your family and friends aware of these rules and guidelines by sharing this page with them via Facebook, or tell them to contact us directly to discuss any potential questions or concerns they may have about a recent accident. The consultation is free but the advice is worth so much more.


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