Driving during a storm can be a terrifying experience. When your car is deluged by water, you can’t see, and you can easily lose control of the vehicle. If your natural impulse is to slow down, that’s good. But another natural impulse can be dangerous, and for that reason, it is also sometimes illegal.
Before turning on your hazard lights in a storm, you need to be sure you are using them correctly. A mistake could result in a traffic ticket—or worse.
Understanding Hazard Lights
The hazard lights on a vehicle can be turned on to indicate an emergency. They flash steadily in a manner that attracts attention, but does not impart a sense of urgency the way that the flashing lights on an emergency vehicle do.
For that reason, many people feel that they should turn these lights on if they are driving slower than normal to provide a warning to other drivers of their reduced speed. But this practice used to be illegal in Florida, and even now it is only allowed in certain situations.
Florida Law Only Allows the Use of Hazard Lights in Limited Circumstances
Section 316.2397 of the Florida statutes prohibits most vehicles from operating with flashing lights unless they are considered emergency and maintenance equipment. Other drivers are allowed to operate with flashing lights only if:
- They are signaling a turn or lane change
- The are lawfully stopped or disabled on the road
- They are flashing their headlights at an oncoming vehicle
- They are driving on a highway with a speed limit of 55 m.p.h. or higher and visibility is “extremely low.”
In addition, vehicles traveling in a funeral procession are generally allowed to drive with hazard lights as a courtesy.
Using Hazard Lights While Driving in the Rain
Recent changes to the law permit the use of hazard lights while driving on a highway in the rain—but just because this practice is now legal does not mean it is a good idea. Many safety experts recommending keeping the hazard lights off while driving for the following reasons:
- Hazard lights disable turn signals, so other drivers cannot tell when you plan to turn or change lanes
- Flashing lights can be disorienting to other drivers
- Hazard lights make the use of brakes less obvious
- Use of hazard lights should be reserved for situations when a driver is signaling the need for assistance
It is important for Florida drivers to realize that it remains illegal to drive with hazard lights on roads where the speed limit is less than 55 m.p.h. Moreover, because laws outlawed driving with hazard lights on for so many years, drivers may be confused if they see your lights and assume that your vehicle is stopped. If your vehicle’s movement takes them by surprise, you could end up in an accident.
Help After an Accident
To protect yourself, you need to practice safe driving habits, make sure your windshield wipers work optimally, and that tires and other equipment are prepared to handle Florida’s tempestuous weather.
But sometimes, despite all your care, someone else behaves irresponsibly and causes an accident. When that happens, it is wise to consult an experienced attorney for advice before talking to anyone else—other than a doctor, of course.
Zweben Law Group can help ensure that you get the care and fair treatment you deserve after an accident. For a free consultation, contact us today.