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Proper Use of Hazard Lights in Florida

Experts In This Article

Florida drivers are privileged to enjoy beautiful coastal highways and plenty of sunshine. However, as a state that sees more than its fair share of car accidents, it’s essential to understand and adhere to local traffic laws to ensure everyone’s safety on the road. One area that tends to cause confusion among drivers is the proper use of hazard lights. In most circumstances, it’s illegal to drive with your hazard lights on in Florida. Hazard lights are for stopped vehicles only. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. However, in most cases, it is considered unlawful and potentially can lead to an unnecessary auto accident.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident due to someone’s negligence, turn to a trusted Orlando car accident attorney for help recovering the compensation you deserve. 

What Are Hazard Lights, and Why Do We Use Them?

Hazard lights, also known as emergency flashers or four-way flashers, are designed to indicate that a vehicle is experiencing an issue and needs extra caution from other drivers. When activated, all four turn signal lights flash simultaneously. 

When to Use Your Hazard Lights

If your car breaks down, or you need to pull over due to a flat tire or other mechanical issue, you should first exit the highway or road and come to a stationary position. Then, you should activate your hazard lights to warn other drivers of your presence and the need for caution. 

When used in the correct scenarios, these flashing lights can make a vehicle more visible and alert other drivers of a potential danger. However, when used inappropriately, using a car’s hazard lights while driving can create the potential for confusion or even an accident. 

When Not to Use a Car’s Hazard Lights

Many drivers feel that turning on their hazard lights will make them more visible to other drivers in the rain or fog, but in fact, they can put you more at risk. Hazard lights can actually reduce visibility, making other drivers think you are stopped or stalled. 

Some common scenarios in which drivers improperly and illegally use their hazards include: 

Heavy traffic: Activating your hazard lights in heavy traffic can actually cause confusion and increase the risk of accidents. Other drivers may interpret the flashing lights as a signal that your vehicle is stopped or disabled, leading to unnecessary lane changes, sudden braking, or other risky maneuvers. Instead of using hazard lights, maintain a safe following distance, and brake smoothly to avoid abrupt stops.

Parking illegally: Using hazard lights when parking illegally or in a no-parking zone may give some drivers the impression that they can momentarily avoid parking regulations. However, activating your hazard lights does not exempt you from parking restrictions or potential fines. If you need to stop your vehicle temporarily, find a designated or legal area to park, and do not rely on your hazard lights to signal to other drivers. 

Bad weather: Often, rainy conditions create extreme fogginess, especially in a humid state like Florida. Light reflects on these tiny water droplets, intensifying the shine of your hazard lights. When you find yourself in low visibility conditions while driving, the best course of action is usually to first turn on your hazard lights and then pull over the vehicle to a safe parking spot. 

Improper Use of Flashing Lights Can Increase the Risk of an Accident

Most drivers expect to see hazard lights when a specific danger is ahead. If drivers are busy looking for a hazard or slowing down in anticipation of one, they may take their eyes off the road or unnecessarily slow down and disrupt the flow of traffic.

In some cars, turn signals are disabled when the hazard lights are turned on. If drivers cannot anticipate your next move, the likelihood of an accident increases. In heavy traffic, this risk is even greater, as many drivers must try to interpret each other’s actions simultaneously. 

Driver confusion, unexpected slowdowns, and bad weather is a recipe for disaster. Drivers should be advised to put on their low beams, as high beams can cause glare in the rain and fog. Most importantly, avoid driving in bad weather conditions when at all possible.

Hazard Lights and Florida Law

Until July 2019, only two exceptions existed allowing the use of hazard lights while driving: 

  • While driving in a funeral procession
  • When the vehicle is at a complete stop and on the side of the road to indicate danger to other drivers

Under Florida Statute 316.2397(7), this regulation was modified to allow drivers to use their hazard lights during periods of “extremely low visibility” and while driving at speeds above 55 mph. Inclement weather, such as heavy rain, can create extreme low visibility conditions and thus is now considered a valid circumstance in which to use these lights. 

Keep in mind that in many other states, using hazard lights in the rain is still illegal. Moreover, although the legality may vary from state to state, experts generally advise against using hazard lights in adverse weather. 

What Are the Penalties for Illegal Use of Hazard Lights in Florida?

If a driver is caught illegally using hazard lights in Florida, they may be cited for a non-moving traffic violation. The penalties for such violations can include fines and court costs, which can vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances of the case. 

Additionally, while there is no specific point value for improper use of flashing lights, other traffic violations may result in points being added to your driver’s license, which can lead to increased insurance premiums and other negative consequences.

Remember that just because a driver’s use of flashing lights was legal under the circumstances, it doesn’t mean that they did not act negligently. A driver operating too fast for road conditions or who did not clearly signal to other drivers their intentions while able to could put others at risk of an accident. 

Should a negligent driver injure you, you’ll want to contact an experienced car accident attorney who can help determine how the accident took place and identify all liable parties. Moreover, an experienced Orlando lawyer knows how the laws particular to your jurisdiction may apply to your case and can help you act accordingly to obtain maximum compensation and protection of your rights. 

Using Your Hazard Lights Properly Can Help Save Lives

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident while driving in rainy weather conditions, contact an experienced Orlando Auto Accident Lawyer. The law firm of Michael T. Gibson, P.A. is dedicated to protecting the rights of those involved in automobile accidents. We can help you obtain compensation for medical bills, future medical treatment, loss of wages, pain and suffering, and more. 

Don’t hesitate to fill out our quick contact form to discuss your legal options in greater detail with a qualified legal representative. 

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