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15 March 2014

Abhishek Mishra on: misusing hazard lights

If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? Chances are you would, with your hazard lights on

Abhishek Mishra
Car image



I’ve always looked at the world as a sad, hopeless mess. Every time I look around, I’m convinced that very few things really change for the better. It’s a reassuring feeling, this hopelessness. It helps you point and laugh at things that people foolishly pin their hopes upon.

Having said that, I expect and like things to always go well for me. While I enjoy other people’s pain, I don’t wish it for myself. So I’m kind of selfish, but unlike most people, I’m open about it. The following sermon therefore must be taken in the right context – I care about me.

What are hazard lights? Also colloquially called hazards, hazard lights are not a separate lighting unit. They’re all of your vehicle’s turn indicator lights blinking simultaneously.  You activate them by pressing a button – typically a red button with a small triangular icon.

When should they be used? Primarily to indicate that your vehicle is disabled and hopefully pulled over at the side of the road. So if you’re changing a punctured tyre or fiddling under the bonnet by the road’s shoulder, you need to switch them on. You can also switch them on if you are slowing down, or to warn motorists behind you of a hazard ahead.

When should they not be used? Just because you’re entering a tunnel, you do not need hazards. Just because it’s raining or foggy, you do not need hazards. Just because you choose to drive way below the speed limit in the fast lane, you do not need to use hazards. Just because everyone else has got them turned on, you do not assume it is the right thing to do.

Now, a lot of people just don’t “see the harm” in using them. It’s a safety feature, right? You can’t ever be too safe, right? Wrong. Here’s an example. If you’re driving down an expressway at 80kph and have your hazards on just because it’s raining, you’re an idiot. For one, other drivers can’t tell when you’re going to change lanes since both your turn indicators are blinking simultaneously. And second, if there really is a hazard in your path as you are indicating, then why the hell are you still driving at high speeds?

The worst bit about this is that people have already gotten so used to this stupid practice. Last night, I was on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway at around 6.30pm. On entering a tunnel, I noticed a truck stalled in the centre lane. The engine had stalled and the driver hadn’t had the opportunity to veer it to the side of the road. As I slowed down, I switched on my hazards. And then some idiot in a Corolla came and rammed into my car from behind.

Luckily, the impact wasn’t too bad for any of the occupants. I had a “WTF?!” expression on my face. The driver wriggled out of his car. He apologised profusely. I asked him if he was OK. I told him I was fine. The police turned up and said this was a minor accident and advised us not to file a complaint. I arranged for the car to be towed and asked a friend to pick me up from the crash site.

As a truck towed the three vehicles to the side of the road, I noticed the Corolla’s hazard lights were on. When I asked the driver, he told me that he always has them on in the night on highways. “Better safe than sorry, no sir? But see, still I crashed.”

I asked him why he needs to use them unnecessarily. He said it helps to have them on at night – people keep their distance. I reminded him that he hadn’t kept his distance when he saw my hazards on. He said he didn’t expect that my car would be at a near standstill when it had its hazards turned on. I told him he was a baboon and should get himself vasectomised. He smiled and quietly walked away. I felt like screwing a couple of hazard lights to the sides of his head.

That’s the problem with pointing and laughing at idiots. There are enough and more of them out there who’ll drag you down with their stupidity. Some morons take all the joy out of being selfish.

Tags: abhishek mishra

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