/ Motoring

What is it with hazard lights?

So, I always thought that motorists only resorted to hazard lights when they’d broken down. But it seems some drivers are using them as an excuse for illegal parking. Should parking wardens be dealing with this?

You might have seen the big hoo-ha yesterday about a 6% increase in the number of traffic wardens, which is costing caught drivers £96 on average. I don’t know whether the wardens are on the look out for hazard-light squatters, but if they are I’m all up for it.

Take today: I’ve seen several cars, vans and lorries flashing away like Christmas trees. One car stuck them on just to park on double yellows to drop a kid off at school – as if all indicators flashing in unison equals no ticket.

Another driver pinged on the yellow bling because they clearly couldn’t master parallel parking, and so opted for blocking up a lane.

Hazard lights and illegal parking

This bugs me. As a driver it can be really frustrating when you see a car parked with what looks like their right indicator flashing to show that they want to re-enter traffic. Naturally, cars slow to let the driver out, but it’s only when they get close to the parked car that they realise it’s the hazards that are twinkling and the driver’s not even in the car. So a stream of traffic is further clogged up, and all because someone wants to pop into the shops.

As a pedestrian, it bothers me even more. I’m put at risk unnecessarily by drivers who double-park because they don’t want to find the nearest legitimate curb-side spot.

The Highway Code says the following about hazard warning lights:

‘These may be used when your vehicle is stationary, to warn that it is temporarily obstructing traffic. Never use them as an excuse for dangerous or illegal parking.’

Surely most motorists must understand this? From my experience it doesn’t seem they do.

Now, I don’t know how many people have been scared, injured or worse because of the actions of such hazard-light misuse, but I’m sure it’s not uncommon. This isn’t to say hazard lights don’t have a legitimate use. If my car broke down on the motorway, I’d put on the hazards to let other motorists know that I’m stationary and potentially in their way.

The question is; are parking attendants giving these hazard-light squatters the benefit of the doubt? I’d welcome some more positive action from parking attendants. Ticking these drivers off might not add to their quota of fines issued for illegal parking, but it would do us all a favour – wouldn’t it?


There seems to be plenty of opportunity to make money out of inconsiderate motorists, providing that there is a parking warden nearby. Don’t forget those who park on yellow lines and don’t use their hazard lights.

Sadly many motorists are bone idle – they are too lazy to park their vehicles correctly and quite often to do this they would have to walk 10 yards. No sympathy for selfish motorists.
Sadly, speeding motorists, smoking and using mobile phones are constantly flouting the law and getting away with it.
Why – no enforcment of the law – why – never see a copper.
Only law enforcement about appears to rely on cameras or radar enforcement.

That so many drivers are so bone idle is not just sad but staggering.

Supermarkets usually have ‘Disabled Parking’ and ‘Parent & Child’ parking close to the entrance.

I think they should introduce a third area, even closer, actually on the footpath right up against the entrance doors and designate it – ‘Lazy B******s Parking’. Perhaps the penny might drop?

The report on the increase in the number of parking attendants needs to be regarded with a degree of caution. In many parts of the country the police have given up on parking enforcement and the functions have been taken up by local authorities. In fact that was always the government’s intention but implementation has been slow. Not all the police employees engaged in parking enforcement and notice processing have transferred to the local council so there has naturally been a rise in recruitment. Additionally, councils in urban areas are introducing more and more parking control zones – usually at the request of residents fed up with finding commuters’ cars parked outside their houses all day – and every one of these new zones needs a squad of enforcers to check the residents’ permits and so on. I am not sure that enforcing hazard warning lights on stationary vehicles is within the portfolio of parking attendants’ legally-authorised enforcement activities – possibly not because it is more of a driving contravention than a parking violation. The primary offence, of course, in the double yellow lines example is the parking contravention itself [unless there is a valid disabled badge displayed] and putting on the hazards might not be such a smart move as it does indeed alert any passing parking attendant or constable or PCSO to the contravention. It can also happen that one driver stops in an obstructive position and puts on the hazards only to find that more vehicles arrive and park either end and block the view of the nearside warning lights. It is debatable whether a vacant vehicle showing warning lights can be regarded as “temporarily obstructing traffic” as descrbed in the Highway Code [thereby justifying enforcement action] as there might be a good reason why the driver has left the vehicle. I would prefer to see such matters left in the wiser and more experienced hands of the police rather than somewhat monosyllabic capacity of parking attendants.

Another misunderstood application of hazard warning lights is on moving vehicles. With certain exceptions [motorways etc] the warning lihghts must not be used while driving or being towed. Every dustcart, works vehicle, and people towing trailers seem to keep the hazard lights on even when in motion.

You are so right, in every respect.
I stopped to tell a policeman recently that just 200 yards away I had just watched a woman stop on the zig-zag lines approaching a zebra crossing and had got out of her car and walked into the adjacent house. The policeman said it was nothing to do with him as it was a parking offence and the police do not have anything to do with those now. Whilst that might be true I was amazed at his non-concern at what I deem a major sin for any motorist. I thought the might at least have spoken to someone on his radio and alerted the nearest parking attendant.
I watched a young man in a BMW today wait until a car moved away so that he could reverse his car up to the door of our local One-Stop shop, despite the fact that he had initially just parked in front of the car next to the door. That wait and reversal saved him a walk of at the most 4 yards. It probably cost him 50p in wasted fuel.

Ian – I think the constable was wrong. Parking on the prohibited approach to a pedestrian crossing is extremely hazardous [especially for children] and is a serious driving offence. The police can still use any of the enforcement powers that are avaialable to parking attendants, it’s just that they don’t like to since they think that, because the primary role has been transferred away, it is low-level work not worthy of their time. However, the police do not need to issue a formal ticket in every such situation. A word from a police officer, and the driver knowing that “their card has been marked”, is usually sufficient deterrent to doing it again. There is less respect for parking attendants so I believe that an informal police caution is more valuable than an official penalty charge notice – after all, the object of the exercise is to get the vehicle moved away, not stuck there with impunity because a parking ticket is flapping on the windscreen.

John W, modern parking enforcement officers are a good thing. As you hint, they have no diecretion (=no arguments will work!). Their job is to record the ‘incident’, issue a penalty notice, and move on. If you try to argue or explain, they’re supposed to politely refer you to the disputation process – and that’s why they’re so useful.

If you have a legitimate reason to be parked/stopped in an awkward place and with hazards on, OK. You write or make an online protest, it’s considered, and you get excused. No problem. If you’re trying it on, and want to rant and bully the person to let you off – you can’t, but you may have the police called to remove you. I see that as REAL justice.

Kabbie says:
1 September 2012

What about drivers who park on the opposite side of the road facing the wrong direction of traffic flow! These are lazy selfish and inconsiderate drivers who cause other road users traveling in the right direction to swerve around them as they attempt to pull out of their parking space! This should be made illegal as it is in Canada for obvious safety reasons!

Maurice says:
3 September 2012

It probably is illegal. It’s certainly against the Highway Code section 239, which quotes certain laws and reads:

If you have to stop on the roadside:
do not park facing against the traffic flow
stop as close as you can to the side
do not stop too close to a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge – remember, the occupant may need more room to get in or out
you MUST switch off the engine, headlights and fog lights

What I find very dangerous, especially on my bike, is when a driver stops on the wrong side at night _and_ leaves their headlights on!

Don’t get me started on traffic wardens, where I worked you’d see people pull up at a roundabout , park get out and use the nearby cashpoint, not once did I see them get a ticket for such dangerous driving and parking. You’d find the traffic wardens patrolling all the nearby parking laybys making notes of when tickets would run out. Yet one one of those vehicles was causing any danger to other road users, they were just easy targets.

OK – so you’re saying that if you illegally overstay your time, the wardens should stay away to let you get away with it? I see you as someone who will always us a proper space, but overstays. You wouldn’t illegally park. The wardens should respect your right to try it on, but not that *** who breaks the law differently than you. Is this right?

No I see wardens as people out to make money and provide no other valuable service. Sure should those ticket who get delayed and arrive back at their vehicle 1 sec after the time, but heaven forbid they ticket people whose parking is dangerous. And I’ve never had a ticket, parking or otherwise, as I’m a good little citizen. I choose to shop online, as its easier and costs alot less even before parking fess are factored in.

Sorry, William – I was being a bit provocative! I can see many councils are being out to earn an extra revenue stream. But not from anyone who keeps the rules. The warden has the job of enforcing those rules, and as I said below, if they’re not enforced fairly or consistently, people get aggrieved to be caught – like the dangerous speeder who asks the ticketing bobby “why can’t you use your time usefully, catching real criminals like burglars?” Maybe last time he caused a near accident, some ‘real’ criminal was robbing his home! Personally, the wardens are there to make a living. All of those in our town (I know them all from meeting them on the job) are reasonable people who think that their job is a real public service and are proud to do the job fairly and honestly, without fuss or upsetting people more than necessary. You might have met the other kind I’ve heard of!

Now I can agree with all that 🙂

I just don’t get why the rules aren’t enforced consistently, as every ticket easy or otherwise will still be money. And any smart council official just need to suggest taking a photo of an illegally parked car and get a more expensive parking fine applied that way. Without much risk to the enforcement officer which is probably why they choose to ignore dangerously parked vehicles as their owners are likely to be around. Or heaven forbid a fixed camera installed overlooking dangerous parking areas.

It is common for people to use their hazard warning lights beside cash dispensers. Obviously they should not do this, but perhaps it was wrong to install a cash dispenser without safe parking nearby.

I think there would be very few cash dispensers if there had to be parking spaces nearby. There’s usually a car park or road space somewhere within a five minute walk in my experience. Perhaps that’s too far for the lazy types who are also disorganised with their cash provisions and have to drive to the town centre to get some.

There are two bank branches with cash dispensers less than two miles from my home. Both are close to a busy crossroad with traffic lights. There are very few parking places nearby and those are usually occupied throughout the day. I think it would be better if these cash dispensers were put somewhere else.

Installing cash dispensers at supermarkets has bee a very sensible development.

I wasn’t being too serious in my previous reply but thinking further about parking outside banks there could be a case – on security and personal safety grounds – for physically preventing any parking immediately adjacent to a cash machine. Certainly their siting should now be reviewed in light of the ram raids that occur increasingly these days. As to hazard warning lights, perhaps the vehicle should also emit a loud audible warning as a deterrent to misuse of the lights.

Not just cars, buses have a habit of doing so – a real problem considering how often they do pull out into the road.

When cycling it is a real worry as you don’t know whether to expect the car to pull out anyway as some people either seem to think that hazard lights serve as carte blanche to drive as they wish, or they switch to indicating, which looks exactly the same.

Once had a driver towing another vehicle and both had hazazrds on, with the driver believing they were in the right after nearly taking out traffic at a roundabout.

Having dealt with misuse of hazard lights, I would like to see more people using them if they have to stop or brake sharply on a motorway. Once there is another car behind, switch them off to avoid annoying other drivers.

While you are stopped it would be a good idea to check that your head restraint is correctly positioned in case you are shunted from behind, even if you are just a passenger in the car.

Mr Iain says:
7 September 2012

It would be an even better idea to have checked and positioned the head restraint correctly before you might need it in anger – which usually happens when you don’t have the gift of time….

That’s obvious, but better late than never if there is a serious risk of a shunt.

There’s nothing new about this, it’s as old as hazard lights.

And I doubt anyone uses them as ‘an excuse for illegal parking’. I’ve always thought of it as a way of hopefully buying a bit of time, in effect saying to the traffic warden, ‘Back in a minute’, rather than have him think the car’s dumped there for the foreseeable future.

Obviously, the traffic warden can still ignore it and, for all I know, usually does.

‘Ping on the yellow bling’? What?

Mr Iain says:
7 September 2012

still illegal parking……

I live in a busy High Street where there is always illegal parking, often inconsiderate and sometimes dangerous, but without fail I find that the drivers know they are parking illegally. Those who are more selfish than others simply could not care abut anybody else who may be inconvenienced – e.g. over driveways or at bus stops where buses cannot get mean to the stops to take on board prams etc. Those who do use their hazard flashers probably do so as an attempt to allay their guilt in that they possibly do care but just can’t be bothered to look for a space. There are three totally free car parks all within 100 yards of the main shopping area, which are rarely full, so there really is no excuse. The policing of this – and it is the police that enforce it – is useless. It was recently estimated at only 0.5% of illegal parkers where I live actually get a ticket. Hence they take the risk and almost always get away with it.

It’s worse than that, Harry. Because they generally get away with it, they then see it as a right to get away with it. The ones that ARE ticketed then get bitter and angry with the police for ‘victimising’ them. It’s a lose-lose situation. If you ask the police, though, they’d probably quote a lack of time – hence the civic enforcement brigade.

Walker says:
8 September 2012

Even more of a problem are those that make a habit of parking on the footway.

orange choc says:
22 September 2012

Just as bad are those that leave their engine running to say “I’ll only be 5 minutes”. This isn’t 1975, your car will start again and we don’t appreciate your fumes and noise.