When rains pour, motorists are lucky if they can still see what is ahead of them with the aid of the windshield wipers.
But a really heavy downpour can compromise visibility to a point that motorists can hardly see what is one the road, which can lead to accidents.
In an attempt to make their vehicles more visible to others during a heavy downpour, motorists resort to using the hazard lights or emergency flashers of their vehicle.
Is this the proper thing to do?
“No,” said Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) president Gus Lagman in a phone interview with Fast Times.
“[Emergency] flashers are not meant to increase your visibility on the road,” he said. “They are meant to tell other drivers that your car has broken down or has become a road hazard.”
Hazard light laws
Joey Recio 3rd, A-1 Driving School business development officer, in a written query to Fast Times, cited Section 34 of Republic Act 4136 or the Macapagal-era “Land Transportation and Traffic Code,” which stipulates that hazard lights or emergency flashers are to be used when the vehicle is parked on highways, poorly lit areas and places where the vehicle is a danger to passing traffic.
He also said that in other countries, like the United States and Canada, driving with hazard lights on is illegal, except when driving below 40 kilometers per hour on the highway, as part of a funeral procession and during emergencies. Recio said that while there is no Philippine law that allows or bans these practices, these are considered acceptable since these are exceptional circumstances.
The boy who cried wolf
Lagman of AAP said the local practice of using hazard lights during a heavy downpour originated from people using hazard lights to snake through traffic in an emergency, very much like using the emergency lights of ambulance or a police car. But he said using the hazard lights needlessly can result to it not being respected anymore for its intended use.
“It will be like ‘the boy who cried wolf,’” he said. “Other motorists would simply disregard the [emergency]flashers since they know that the lights aren’t used for their intended purpose.”
Recio said the unnecessary use of hazard lights or emergency flashers can cause confusion, especially for emergency responders who actively seek vehicles using them.
“They are the ones that they prioritize in times of emergencies, accidents and road crashes,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to confuse them or waste their time when every second counts.”
So what are the alternatives for using the hazard lights or emergency flashers during a heavy downpour? Here they are:
• Turn on your lights – Both Lagman and Recio recommend using parking lights and/or headlights, which also turn on the taillights. Recio said these “stationary lights” are easier to see during low visibility than hazard lights.
Lagman also recommends using fog lamps in hazy weather because the light the regular headlamps can bounce back during a heavy downpour that can hamper visibility.
• Use a rear fog lamp – Often a popular aftermarket accessory, a rear fog lamp isn’t just for show. This device can help make you more visible in bad weather to drivers behind you. Many new vehicles like the Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Montero Sport have this as standard. But even older cars can be fitted with a read fog lamp in any reputable car accessory shop.
• Slow down – If your vehicle’s windshield is inundated with rain, slowing down is an excellent precaution. Lagman added slowing down is important during rainy weather since a vehicle has less braking power on wet surfaces and water build-up on roads can cause hydroplaning that can lead to loss of control.
• Pull over – When the weather is really bad, it’s best to just stop your vehicle and park it at a safe spot. In this case, Recio said turning on your vehicle’s hazard lights is a must.
So stop using those hazard lights during a heavy downpour.