Your vehicle's lighting system can be a life-saving safety tool, if used properly
Author of the article:
May 26, 2021
I can think of at least three situations where my car’s hazard lights may have saved my life. Whether caused by wildlife on the road, a damaged windscreen from flying ice, or something else, each situation resulted in hard braking on an active roadway, and the urgent need to tell everyone with eyes on me that something is wrong.
Flashing four-ways are a universal signal of danger on the road — and thanks to attentive fellow motorists in various emergency situations over the years, I — and they — have stayed safe when things got gnarly.
Not all drivers know how to use their hazard lights properly, and a good percentage of them will tend to fail what Michelin Driving Expert and Stunt Driver Carl Nadeau calls a very important safety test.
“I’m sure 50% of drivers would take a few seconds to find their hazard lights, after looking around for a moment. But it’s an emergency feature. You’ve got to know where it is!” Nadeau comments.
“It should be as normal as hitting the brakes. Drivers can practice the movement — in motor racing, we practice driver change and pit stops for the same reason: we need to build the reflex.”
When drivers are able to activate their hazard lights without looking for them, they’re able to keep their eyes more focused on the road ahead, which is vital for successfully navigating hazardous situations.
So, Nadeau’s test, more or less, involves being able to turn your hazard lights on immediately, and without looking for them — just as easily as you’d roll down a power window or flick on your radar cruise.
“Drivers should always be looking around, all the time” Nadeau comments.
“It can prevent you from being hypnotized by the road, and you’ll know everything that’s surrounding you. So, the simple maneuver of turning on your hazard lights should be done naturally, without taking your eyes off of the road. Changing gear, you’re not looking at the shifter. Turning the wheel, you know where it is. It should be the same for the hazard lights”
Nadeau notes that hazard lights should be used sparingly, and exclusively for road hazards. Overuse of hazard lights can make them less effective, if other drivers become used to seeing them on the road.
“Don’t overuse them. In an extremely thick fog, yes. If it’s just raining, don’t drive with you hazard lights on. Use them at the right time.”
Your hazard lights are an excellent way to send a message to other motorists, even at a great distance away, that there’s something wrong. Flashing four-ways are an even more powerful danger signal to attentive drivers than brake lights, and if your fellow motorists are on the ball, they’ll light up their hazards too — alerting more motorists to slow down and be careful.
If there’s a traffic-stopping hazard on the highway in the dark, like a family of Moose recently revealed just in the nick of time by one Jeep Gladiator’s optional LED headlights for instance, hazard lights can bathe the nearby area in flashing lights, even warning drivers approaching around a corner. Ideally, this causes a chain reaction, turning the entire area into a big flashing light that tells approaching motorists to be on the lookout.
So: could you turn yours on in one second, without looking, if you had to? Have you committed the location of your hazard light switch to memory?
Try, next time you get in your car or truck. If you can’t, start practicing, and you’ll quickly be able to turn your hazards on immediately, and without having to look for them.
Your vehicle’s lighting system is a powerful safety and communication tool. When used properly, it could save your life.
Alert Driver Training in Rock Hill, SC is always here to help, whether it's to teach your teen, or refresh your own driving skills. Call us!