Busses hazard lights can be confusing to passing motorists, reader says

Dear Street Smarts,

Q Metro buses flash their emergency flashers when stopped at a bus stop. I have questions and comments about this.

First, is it legal? Once upon a time, emergency flashers were only to be used by distressed vehicles. Then someone decided they could be used to indicate an emergency on somebody else's part. Then they started to be used to indicate double-parking, etc. Are there legal guidelines for their use and do those include use at bus stops?

Second, is it Metro policy? I think it should not be, and that is the subject of my comment:

I have always liked to yield to buses and other professional drivers, to thank buses and taxis for reducing traffic congestion and just to improve their driving day. When I see a bus at a bus stop, I look to see if it is signaling to pull back out in front of me. It is very difficult to distinguish a turn signal from an emergency flasher and nearly impossible to see when one changes to the other. So buses using emergency flashers actually make it harder for me to yield to them.

Surely this is an unintended consequence. I don't need emergency flashers to see a huge bus stopped by the side of the road. Any flashing lights on it should be intended to alert me to its intention to move, period.

Can we persuade Metro to change this practice?

Joe Eugene, Live Oak

A I sent your question to both the Metropolitan Transportation District and the California Highway Patrol for a response.

Both said that the use of hazard lights by buses is California law. Vehicle code section 25251(a)(2) states that vehicles are permitted to use their emergency flashers “when disabled or parked off the roadway but within 10 feet of the roadway, or when approaching, stopped at, or departing from, a railroad grade crossing, turn signal lamps may be flashed as warning lights if the front turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously and the rear turn signal lamps at each side are being flashed simultaneously.”

What’s more, Frank Bauer, Metro’s safety and training coordinator, said that modern buses are programmed to automatically engage their four-way flashers whenever the front or rear doors are open; the coach has been lowered to allow an easier step onto the coach; the accessible ramp has been deployed; the fast idle is engaged and the parking brake is engaged.

I asked CHP Officer Hugh Holden if he was aware of any collisions between busses and motorists involving hazard light confusion.

“We have not seen many vehicle versus bus collisions where the above scenario has played out,” he said. “Most often it’s a matter of drivers following too closely and hitting the bus as it slows for a stop or sideswipes as cars try to get by the slower moving bus.”

     Holden urged motorists be wary of approaching curbed busses with their hazards on, as there may be pedestrians around.
This entry was posted in accidents, alternative transportation, Bicycling, California Vehicle Code, CHP, DMV, driver education, Driver safety, inattentive drivers, Motorcycles, Public safety, Rude/Unsafe Drivers, Senior drivers, teen drivers, Traffic collisions, traffic hazards and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply