Let's Debate: Flashers On Or Off In A Rain Storm?

Illustration for article titled Let's Debate: Flashers On Or Off In A Rain Storm?
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Florida is considering a wild new law that goes against everything many of us have been taught. It’s considering allowing drivers the ability to turn on their flashers, or hazard lights, in heavy rain.

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Now, most of us probably learned that this is a bad idea. Hazard lights are usually reserved for cars stopped on the side of the road—or even on the road proper—so you know they’re there and can slow down or avoid them. But Governor Ron DeSantis could sign a new piece of legislation that would allow you to use your flashers when driving at highway speeds of 55 mph or more, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

In Florida, a lot of people ignore the law that states only stopped cars—or funeral processions—can use their flashers in the rain. Apparently, the response here is not to keep the law that promotes safe driving but to entirely change it.

To use the flashes at highway speeds causes several other problems. For one, it’s distracting as hell to have a ton of flashing lights going off all around you. I saw some folks retweeting the article from the Orlando Sentinel to state that race cars use flashing lights in the rain, but highway drivers should not ever be considered race car drivers. Ever.

Then there’s the fact that most cars use the same bulbs to power the flashers as they do turn signals. So, if all these people have their flashers going off, you’re not going to be able to tell who’s merging, changing lanes, or exiting highways. There’s no way to judge other drivers’ intents.

Of course, it also presents problems for stopped cars, since you may not be able to tell if a car is stopped or just driving slowly in a lane. Nervous drivers or people carrying unsteady or heavy loads often use their flashers in the rain to let other drivers know they’re traveling at drastically different speeds than the rest of traffic. If everyone is using their flashers, you’re not going to be able to distinguish between someone going highway speeds and someone going suburb speeds.

And this all neglects the fact that, if the rain is so bad you think you need flashers to drive highway speeds, you’re going way too fast already. Especially in a place like Florida, where cloudbursts are common but can often be pretty short.

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I’ve yet to see a convincing argument for allowing flashers, other than the fact that people do it anyway so just letting them do it would cut down on unnecessary policing. But if you’re on that side of the fence, please try to convince me. I need to understand.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

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I’ve always used flashers any time I was forced to travel dramatically below the speed limit on the highway (mechanical issue, running out of gas, thick fog, heavy rain) and it seemed that other cars were still moving at higher speeds. That seemed like a good way to indicate slow-moving travel to other cars that wouldn’t necessarily recognize that from taillights alone (and obviously, only if I was planted in the far right lane, not changing lanes). So that’s my case for (sometimes) driving with flashers. I also rip off the European model and hit my flashers if I have to slam to a halt (a feature that many European cars have automatically for brake lights), which I wish everybody did.

Florida allowing flashers over 55mph seems crazy to me – you should only go that speed if you have the visibility to allow it, which makes flashers moot. I can’t think of a situation where you would both travel at highway speed and use your flashers. But far be it from me to suggest Florida would pass a piece of bad legislation...