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What Are Four-Way Flashers?

Four-way flashers are hazard lights activated by pushing the hazard light switch. They exist to warn other drivers that there has been an emergency and/or your car is parked on the side of the road.

What are Four-Way Flashers?

Also known as "emergency flashers", four-way flashers are so-named because all four signal lights are activated when the hazard switch is flicked.

Where is the Hazard Light Switch in My Car?

The hazard switch is a large button with an image depicting a triangle within a triangle. It is typically either a black button with red triangles or a red button with white triangles.

It's often placed within reach of the driver, allowing them to push the button as soon as there is an emergency.

Check the dashboard or look to the side/underneath of the steering column to find the hazard switch in your car.

How Does The Hazard Switch Work?

The hazard switch is a simple on/off switch that operates with a low current. When the driver pushes the button, it completes a circuit and activates the lights. When the switch is off, the circuit opens and stops power from flowing.

The switch works for as long as there is battery power. It will work even if your car is not running.

If your battery is completely dead, the system won't work.

How Long Before the Hazard Lights Drain the Battery?

It depends on the type of vehicle and the size of the battery, but you will typically have anywhere from just under an hour to several hours.

Hazard lights are very important and will help you in an emergency. It's important, therefore, to ensure that they are in full working order. If pressing the button doesn't do anything or the lights don't stay active for long, ask a mechanic to inspect the vehicle.

When Should 4-Way Flashers Be Used?

Hazard warning lights are used to warn others that you have an issue with your vehicle. They are designed to be visible to all other drivers on the road, allowing them to avoid you if you have been forced to stop unexpectedly at the side of the road.

There are several other times when you should consider using your hazard lights:

You Are Being Pulled Over

If a police car is trailing you and asking you to pull over, activating your hazard lights will show them that you are complying and waiting for a place to stop. It will also help other drivers to identify your vehicle when you have pulled to the side of the road.

You Need to Change a Tire

Exiting your vehicle on a busy road is very dangerous, but if you have a flat tire, you might not have a choice.

Should you need to pull over and change a tire, use your hazard lights to warn other drivers away. You don't want them to be driving too close, and the hazard lights will ensure they give you a wide berth.

You Require Emergency Roadside Assistance

As the name suggests, emergency flashers are designed for use in an emergency. If you have an issue and need to stop immediately, turn on those hazard warning lights, pull over, and call for roadside assistance or recovery.

When Is it Not Okay to Use Your Hazard Lights?

Hazard lights are not an invitation to break the law. They should only be used in times of emergency, and never during any of the following scenarios:

You are Parking Illegally

Needing to double-park so you can rush to the toilet or get to the bank before it closes is not an emergency situation.

We've all been in a situation where we can't find a parking space and feel like we’ve been driving around for hours trying to find one. But frustration is not a valid excuse to use four-way emergency flashers. You could end up with a traffic ticket and may also create dangerous conditions for other motorists.

You're Driving in Heavy Traffic

Although it's tempting to turn on your emergency blinkers to warn drivers of slow-moving traffic, it's not a valid reason.

It could also do more harm than good, as drivers behind you won't know whether you are turning or not.

You're Exiting the Highway

If your vehicle begins to have issues as you're preparing to turn off the highway, don't be tempted to use your hazard lights. That's what your turn signals are for!

Activating your hazard lights can actually prevent you from using your turn signals—more reason to avoid them.

Can I Drive With My Hazard Lights On

Laws governing the use of four-way flashers differ from state to state. In some regions, you're allowed to drive with your emergency flashers active providing you don't exceed 25 miles per hour.

Check your local traffic laws for more information.

Can I Speed with My Flashers On?

Emergency flashers don't give you the right to treat your vehicle like a police car. While it might be possible for you to drive with your hazards active, it's never acceptable to speed.

In fact, speeding is always illegal, even if you have what you think is a valid excuse.

Summary: Using 4-Way Flashers

4-way flashers, also known as hazard lights, indicate the presence of a traffic hazard and are an essential component of every vehicle. If you see those emergency lights flashing on the road, it means that a car is in trouble. If you find yourself in a similar situation, flick the switch, pull over, and seek assistance.

Local hazard light laws will tell you whether you're allowed to use these lights while driving, but wherever you are in the United States, hazard lights can be used to indicate a parked or slow-moving car that could endanger other vehicles.