A car comes equipped with a range of safety of features to keep you safe, as well as motorists and pedestrians you share the road with.

Hazard warning lights are one of these safety features but also a part that’s shrouded in confusion as not everyone knows when to use them and when they should be left alone.

When should you use hazard warning lights?

Situations like when your car has broken down, you are changing a tyre on the side of the road, or you’ve been pulled over by law enforcement are all examples of when you can employ your hazard lights.

As the use of hazard warning lights is distracting, they should only be used when legally allowed.

To clear up the confusion surrounding hazard lights, we’ve created this simple guide to demonstrate when to use them and when they should be left off.

With some background into the purpose of these lights and answers to questions about their use, you’ll be a much safer driver and know the right time to employ them.

What are Hazard Warning Lights?

What are Hazard Warning Lights?

Hazard warning lights are used when your four indicator lights are turned on to flash on and off in unison.

The lights are activated when a switch or button in the car is turned on, and there are different uses for them, depending on the country you live in and the road rules in your area.

These lights predominantly serve as a warning to other motorists and pedestrians, and a way to make your car more visible.

Using them in the incorrect way or when you’re not meant to can pose a safety risk to others, so it’s an important part of responsible car ownership to learn the basics of your hazard lights.

The History of These Important Lights

The History of These Important Lights

Although an important safety tool, the hazard warning light hasn’t always come as standard in cars, and each country has had its own rules governing their use.

In the UK, hazard lights were required from 1986, and in other countries like the US, even earlier.

When cars were first on the road, it wasn’t even common to see indicator lights, let alone these lights.

Some argued that the invention of indicators was a distraction and sometimes a mechanical device was used instead of a light to indicate which way the car was turning.

Today, all modern cars are fitted with hazard lights, as well as indicator lights.

Although a seemingly small feature of a car’s overall build, they come with a lot of rules and are a helpful safety tool to have in case your car has broken down or you’re in some sort of trouble on the road.

When to Use Your Hazard Lights

Hazard lights were designed to keep you safe on the road, or more accurately when you’re not on the road.

With their bright and consistent flashing, hazard lights can make you visible to others, and these are some of the times when you might need to use them and can do safely.

Your car is broken down on the side of the road

Your car is broken down on the side of the road

When your car breaks down and you pull over to the side of the road, it can still be a distraction of safety concern for other motorists.

While you wait for help or check out the problem yourself, turn on your hazard lights so that people can see your car parked there and so they understand why you’ve stopped.

Your car has broken down on the road

If you’re unlucky enough not to get your car pulled over to the side of the road in time for it to come to a stop completely, your hazard lights can help you out.

Turn the lights on so that traffic can safely maneuver around you and people are made aware that there’s an issue with your car that’s caused it to stop.

The lights can also help identify your car when the help you called for finally arrives.

After an accident

After an accident

Accidents happen on the road and sometimes they cause our car to become undrivable.

If you’ve recently been in an accident and are still on the road, turn on your hazard lights to highlight law enforcement to the scene and keep other motorists safely away from the crash.

You’ve been pulled over

Sometimes, you might want to put on your hazard lights if the police have signaled for you to pull over and you are waiting for them on the side of the road.

Although not always required, it might be helpful in poor weather conditions or at night so they can see where you are.

You’re changing a tyre

You’re changing a tire

If you have to change a tyre on the side of the road, you want to make yourself known to passers-by.

This will help people to drive safely around you and keep the area clear when you’re walking outside of your car, especially on a more narrow road or in low visibility.

When Not to Use Them

A responsible driver not only understands the right time to use their hazard warning lights but also when not to use them.

If you’re ever in doubt, The Highway Code highlights the correct usage of these lights and other road safety and vehicle rules. Otherwise, these are some instances when they should be left off:

While driving

While driving

Never turn on your hazard lights while driving as it can be a great distraction to others.

The only exception, as set out in the Highway Code, is when a motorist turns their hazards on while driving to warn others about an incident up ahead while they’re on a motorway or dual carriageway.

In this case, they should be turned on quickly and then turned back off again.

Illegal parking

A hazard light is not an acceptable excuse for parking dangerously or illegally, even if you only plan on doing so for a short time. It should not be used to signal this type of incident.

Hazard Warning Lights and Your Car

Hazard Warning Lights and Your Car

As well as ensuring safe practice for those sharing the road with you, proper hazard light use is also important for your car.

Leaving these lights on for too long can drain the car’s battery, just like leaving any of your vehicle’s lights on can do, and they should only be used for as long as necessary to signal the issue to others.

If you’re experiencing problems like the lights turning on themselves, this is likely due to a switch circuit issue, and it should be checked immediately by a mechanic.

A hazard light should never come on automatically except in cases where an accident caused the airbags to be deployed, as a means to make your car more visible and allow you to signal for help.

Staying Safe on the Road

Hazard lights were invented as a way to keep you and other motorists safe on the road, but knowing when to use them is an essential part of responsible driving.

Take some time to learn the rules of hazard warning lights to make sure you’re doing it right and keeping yourself and others safe.

Related Questions

If you’ve ever in a situation where hazard lights are needed, they can be a helpful tool to utilize on the road.

There are lots of other ways to stay safe while driving and many different lights that your car uses, so we’ve answered some FAQs about them to give you a better understanding.

Can A Car Battery Die From Leaving Lights On?

Can A Car Battery Die From Leaving Lights On?

A car’s headlights are an electrical component of your car and if you leave them on for too long, they may drain the battery.

How long they can be left on without draining it will depend on the car and battery, but doing so for more than four hours may result in a flat battery when you return to it.

How Long Do Headlights Last?

The lifespan of a car’s headlights differs from the make and model of a car and the type of lights used.

However, you can expect to have to change at least one of your car’s headlights every 10 years or so, and maybe more frequently if you’ve purchased a second-hand vehicle or are already using a replacement bulb.

Is It Illegal To Have a Brake Light Out?

In the UK, police can stop you for having faulty or broken brake light, and for repeat offenses, you may be charged.

Otherwise, you may be presented with a ‘vehicle defect rectification notice’ that requires you to get the light fixed within a certain timeframe and then provide proof to the police to show it’s been fixed.


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