With the rainy season knocking on our doors, we’re here to shoot down all the arguments you have in favor of driving in low viz with the hazard lights on.
Every year, government agencies and motoring journalists tirelessly remind the public to stop using your hazard lights when driving on the rain.
Some agree that it is indeed dangerous to turn your hazard lights on when driving in the rain, while some refute this claim.
But egardless of your opinion on the matter, one thing is for sure: driving with your hazard lights on with low to zero visibility can cause confusion.
So first, let’s have a clear understanding of what the intended uses of the hazard lights are.
An international standard
In 1968, representatives from 38 countries—including the Philippines—came together in Vienna to ratify universal traffic laws that would make driving all over the world standardized.
Out of that conference, the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic was born. The treaty included enumerating the numerous safety features a vehicle must have, including universally accepted signs and their operability.
Article 32 of the treaty talks about the proper use of lighting and sound signals to effectively communicate certain things to other drivers. Section 8 talks about the use of lighting during low-visibility scenarios:
- Between nightfall and dawn and in any other circumstances when visibility is inadequate, the presence of power-driven vehicles and their trailers standing or parked on a road shall be indicated by front and rear position lamps. In thick fog, falling snow, heavy rain or similar conditions passing lamps or front fog lamps may be used. Rear fog lamps may in these conditions be used as a supplement to the rear position lamps.
Meanwhile, Section 13 directly talks about the only uses of hazard signals:
- Hazard warning signal may be used only to warn other road-users of a particular danger: (a) When a vehicle which has broken down or has been involved in an accident cannot be moved immediately, so that it constitutes an obstacle to other road-users; (b) When indicating to other road-users the risk of an imminent danger.
If you comb through the said passages, there is nothing that indicates the use of hazards during inclement weather. Instead, the only use the Vienna Convention agreed upon was directly stipulated under Article 32 Section 13 of the treaty.
The dukes of hazard
Before you might say that the use of hazard lamps under the Vienna Convention is just prescriptive, keep in mind that former president Ferdinand Marcos made the treaty the law in the land in 1973 under Presidential Decree No. 207.
Under this proclamation, he tasked the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to make sure that everything agreed upon by the participating countries in Vienna would become enacted.
Unfortunately, the buck stopped there. While the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) hasn’t shied away from reminding people to not practice this dangerous habit, there are no penalties for the improper use of hazard lamps.
And we’re not only talking about the erroneous use during low-visibility situations. Those nifty amber lamps have become the very symbol of road abuse in the country.
Just pass by any national road where parking is not allowed, and you’ll see running cars with blinking hazard lamps just to bypass the law. Those who want to cut through the horrendous city traffic will just turn on these lights and voila, instant pass.
In an article published by Top Gear Philippines a few years ago concerning the use of hazard lights in the rain, they quoted people from the motoring industry on their take on the issue.
Robby Consunji, lawyer and columnist for the magazine, couldn’t have put it more eloquently:
“It is gross negligence to drive with the hazard lights on—whether it’s raining or not. I believe the supremacy of hazard lights came from the Martial Law days. Sirens and flashing beacons were for the powerful; hazard lights were the poor man’s option.”
While it might be illegal in certain parts of the United States and other territories, there is an ongoing battle against this plague-like behavior. In the Philippines, people continuously justify this.
Bad excuses for bad driving behavior
Since one of our goals at eCompareMo is to make everyone better behind the wheel, we’re here to refute you’re the most common reasons they justify the use of hazards during low-visibility scenarios:
1. “Everyone is doing it.”
Just because people are doing it doesn’t make it the norm. It’s still wrong and being part of an erroneous majority doesn’t make it any right. Also, how did you come up with the conclusion that everyone does it?
2. “I’m a good driver so I’ll be fine.”
Have you ever considered that you’re not the only driver on the road? If you’re as good as you think you are, then you will be more considerate towards other people who may misread your signs.
3.“My hazard lamps are on because I don’t want them to collide with my car.”
If you don’t want to run the risk of collision and you’re unsure about your or their driving abilities in the rain, carefully find the nearest lay-by and park there. Then turn your hazards on.
4. “I just want my car to visible in the rain.”
Turn on your night lamps (taillights and front lights) if you want visibility. If you keep your hazards on, you run the risk of miscommunicating to other drivers in case you need to switch lanes or make a full turn and you have to turn on the appropriate turn signal. If you’re not sure if they can see you, then the visibility must be so poor that you should pull over to the side.
5. “I’m not doing anything illegal.”
Sure, doing it may not get you flagged by traffic constables (We mean, come on, why would they even try that during zero-viz situations). However, causing road confusion is both immoral and unethical.
6. “Who died and made you the king of hazard lights? I will do whatever I want.”
The reason why the Vienna Convention agreed on numerous semiotic elements in vehicles is because of this; we don’t want any more casualties because of incorrect road information.
Every lamp fitted in your car has its purpose and communicates a certain piece of information to other drivers. When you misuse (or in most cases, abuse) your hazard lamps, other drivers might make seriously terrible judgment behind the wheel and cost them their cars or worse.
7. “Turning on the hazard lamps are a Filipino thing.”
No, they’re not. In other countries, debates for and against their use still go on, with the ones vehemently disagreeing with this practice using the same arguments we’ve raised here. They’re even the same reason why there are state laws in the United States prohibiting this.
Traffic rules exist to prevent chaos in the streets. If for once in our lives we stop thinking only for ourselves and we consider the well-being of other people, then this seemingly minor inconvenience will greatly benefit us in the long run.
It’s time we stop thinking short term and play the endgame. The hazard button isn’t the “I will push this button so I can do as I please” signal. Please keep your hands off the warning signal during heavy rains.