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Ask a Trooper: There's a time and place for hazard lights

Driving smart sometimes means waiting to drive.

Minnesota State Patrol courtesy photo
Minnesota State Patrol (Courtesy photo)
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Question: We recently were on 35W traveling up to Duluth. We encountered a heavy rainstorm in the early afternoon that made it very difficult to see in front of us even at 35-40 mph. One car ahead of us put his hazard lights on. Is this legal? It did help to see him ahead of us. Also several cars pulled over to the side of the road during the storm and stopped with no hazard lights. Should they have had hazard lights on when stopped beside the road in this instance? Thanks for your assistance.

Answer: A driver can use their hazard lights to warn other motorists of a vehicular traffic hazard that requires caution in approaching, overtaking or passing.

Situations with limited visibility such as a blizzard, thick fog and heavy rain would constitute a traffic hazard. Other hazardous scenarios could include:

  • A vehicle having issues maintaining a minimum safe speed.
  • A flat tire or mechanical breakdown on the shoulder of the road.
  • An impaired driver or driver conducting dangerous behaviors.

Responsible driving is remaining alert and being prepared. If you encounter thunderstorms or fog you should:

  • Reduce your speed.
  • Increase following distance.
  • Turn on your headlights. It’s the law.
  • Use extra caution.
  • Be prepared to stop.

Driving smart sometimes means waiting to drive. If you cannot see a safe distance ahead, pull off the road, stop, activate your hazard lights and wait until visibility improves.


A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us ).

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