Your flashers are supposed to warn drivers that you’re in trouble, and you hope they’ll keep their distance and not crash into you. Well, just the reverse could be true. You could be inviting them to hit you.
The only time to use your flashers is when you’re stopped in a traffic lane for whatever reason, most likely car trouble. You should NOT use them if your car is off the road, in a parking lane or on the shoulder of a highway.
Have you ever heard of the “moth effect?” Probably not. But just as moths are attracted to light, drivers seem to be attracted to flashing lights. So, what’s the problem, right? Well, maybe you also don’t know that where you look is where you steer – without even knowing it.
So, if you’re on the shoulder of a highway with your flashers on, you are attracting other drivers to, yes, steer into you. Don’t believe it? Have you heard of the “Move Over Law/”
Every state has enacted such a law except Hawaii. In 2010, New York was perhaps the last state to pass such a law. It is called the Ambrose-Searles Law in memory of two police officers who were killed while standing alongside a vehicle on the shoulder and were struck by a car that steered into them.
So, now the law says that when you approach an emergency vehicle you must not drive in the lane adjacent to the emergency vehicles. You must change lanes, i.e. move over into the middle or left lane. If it’s not safe to do so, then you must reduce your speed by 15 mph below the speed limit. The fine is $275 and 3 points on your license.
Originally the law classified emergency vehicles as police or ambulance. But in 2012, the law was amended to include vehicles that flash yellow lights as well, e.g. tow trucks, snow plows and other vehicles performing road maintenance, construction or repair. The penalty was not changed, however.
Experts, like those at AAA, advise to use the flashers. Be aware that even bona-fide experts quite often spread Ka-Ka. The moth effect is real; a tow truck operator was struck and killed near Syracuse while tending to a disabled vehicle on the New York State Thruway.
If you need to stop on the shoulder, hang a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf on the antennae or door handle or hold it in place by closing a window on it. Raise the hood, also. Do not use your flashers…and need I say, don’t sit in the car. Stay far away in case someone does run into it.
If you’re car becomes disabled and cannot be driven off the road, by all means turn on the flashers. It would also be a good idea to carry flares and warning signs. Do not try to push the car off the road. Do not stay in the car. These activities are extremely dangerous since we have so many drivers these days who drive distracted and don’t pay attention to what’s up ahead.