Driving With Hazards On In Bad Weather: Is It Legal?

Maybe not. The laws vary from state to state.

Every state has different driving laws and regulations, so check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for updates.

Picture this: You’re driving along and the snow or rain is coming down hard. A few of the cars in front of you put their flashing lights on, but other cars don’t. You think to yourself, “Should I have my flashing lights on, too?”

If you’ve ever pondered this question, you’re not alone. Those flashing lights are called hazard lights, or “hazards,” and a lot of drivers are unsure of when and how they’re supposed to use them. Is it legal or illegal to drive with your hazards on?

Well, it’s not that simple.

What are hazard lights?

First off, let’s look at what exactly hazard lights are.

Hazard lights are located in the front and back of vehicles, activated by a button or switch that typically looks like a red triangle. The exact location of the button/switch varies on each vehicle, so check your owner’s manual if you can’t locate yours.

Another name for hazard lights are “emergency flashers.”

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When and Why Are They Used?

As the name suggests, hazard lights are used to alert other drivers of an approaching hazard. That could be a stalled vehicle, debris in the road, an accident, etc.

Turning on your hazard lights should be one of the first things you do if you’re in a crash. That way other drivers can be aware of the situation and slow down. “Turn on your hazard lights and set out warning flares or reflective triangles,” AAA suggests. “Do not leave the scene of the crash, but find a safe place to remain until emergency services arrive.”

Some states allow drivers to use hazard lights when driving in adverse weather conditions or if forced to reduce speed. Like when it’s snowing.

Is it legal to drive with them on in your state?

Every state is different. For instance, in Idaho hazard light use is not permitted while driving “except to indicate the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing,” according to AAA. However states like Kentucky, Connecticut, Wyoming, Texas and Pennsylvania allow the use of hazard lights while driving.

In Virginia, hazards are not permitted while driving except for:

  • Emergency vehicles;
  • Stopped or slowed vehicles to indicate a traffic hazard;
  • Traveling as part of a funeral procession;
  • Traveling slower than 30 mph.

States like Oregon allow the use of hazard lights unless otherwise posted for that road.

Read this list from AAA to determine your state’s laws and download any of these apps to get alerts about any severe weather in your area.

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Alex Shoemaker
Alex is an avid DIYer but had little experience before purchasing his first home in 2019. A Family Handyman subscription was one of his first purchases after becoming a homeowner, and he's been hooked ever since. When he’s not working, he can be found fixing up his 1940s Florida home or relaxing on the beach with his family.