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Just when should you use your emergency flashers?

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Dear Tom and Ray:



This has been an ongoing disagreement with my wife and others: When you pull to the side of the road for ANY reason OTHER than an EMERGENCY ("emergency" defined as: vehicle trouble, flat tire, heart attack, etc.), should you use your emergency flashers? I stop and offer assistance two or three times a week (I'm not kidding) to anyone pulled to the side of the road with their emergency flashers on. More times than not, it is a NON-emergency. They're either on the phone, looking at a map, changing a baby's diaper or -- just the other day, a couple was arguing. These are all valid reasons to pull off the road, just not to use your emergency flashers, in my opinion. What is yours? -- Chuck

RAY: Chuck. You are a man in desperate need of something else to worry about. How about global warming? Nukes in Iran? Or the price of imported Jarlsberg cheese?

TOM: In our opinion, all of the drivers you refer to are perfectly entitled to use their flashers. And here's why. The primary purpose of the flashers is to make sure that another vehicle doesn't hit you.

RAY: You may have noticed that car makers call the flashers "Hazard Lights" rather than "Emergency Flashers" nowadays. That's because they exist so you can make sure you're not a hazard to others on the road.

TOM: Anytime you pull over to the side of the road in a place where cars are not expected to be parked, it's appropriate to use your hazard lights to warn other drivers that you're stopped in a place where they don't expect to see parked cars.

RAY: Drivers aren't expecting to see a car in the breakdown lane, and to make sure you get their attention early enough that they're not surprised by you -- so they don't drift off into your car, or into a door you're opening -- turn on your hazard lights to get other drivers' attention.

TOM: You're a good citizen to stop and see if they need help, Chuck. We don't mean to criticize you, because the world could use more good citizens like you. And if you don't mind getting turned down some of the time, you should continue to stop and offer people help.

RAY: But stopping your car to argue, make a phone call, read a map or change a diaper (especially to change a diaper -- whoof!) are all good -- and legitimate -- reasons to pull off the road. And anytime you pull off near a road and not into a parking area, you should use your hazard lights for safety. That would include parking to help someone whose hazard lights are on -- so don't forget to use your hazards, too, Chuck.

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