Turn signal lights allow drivers to warn the vehicles behind them that they’re turning in a certain direction. They also function as hazard warning lights, to warn other motorists that the vehicle is a temporary obstruction, typically for an emergency such as a flat tire.
By law, drivers approaching a stationary vehicle with its hazard lights on should yield the right of way to the immobile automobile. Breaking this law is a punishable offense in Virginia, with corresponding fines and jail time.
What to do when approaching a stationary vehicle with flashing hazard lights
Per state rules, if a driver is approaching a stationary vehicle with its hazard lights flashing, the driver should yield the right of way by changing lanes into one that’s not adjacent to the inactive automobile. If changing lanes is unreasonable or unsafe, the driver should proceed with caution and maintain a safe speed.
The law also applies in cases where the stationary automobile is an emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance, fire engine or patrol vehicle. In lieu of the hazard lights, these vehicles can use their blue/red or amber lights to denote they’re immobile and should be approached similarly.
Penalties for violating the law
If a driver doesn’t yield the right of way for a stationary vehicle with its hazard lights on, an officer can cite them for a traffic infraction. Traffic infractions carry a fine of up to $250.
However, if a driver fails to yield to a stationary emergency vehicle, the offense instead becomes a reckless driving charge. Reckless driving charges are equivalent to Class 1 misdemeanor criminal offenses, and a conviction leads to up to 12 months of jail and $2,500 in fines.
Enhanced penalties for property damage, injuries or death
Virginia also imposes enhanced penalties on violators if their failure to yield the right of way also damages another person’s property. According to the law, a court may suspend the convicted person’s driving privileges for up to a year.
If the offense caused injuries or deaths, a court may suspend the convicted person’s driving privileges for up to two years, in addition to any other penalties levied.
To summarize, passing a stationary vehicle recklessly is a bad idea. Drivers caught will face fines and imprisonment if they brazenly pass by an emergency vehicle without caution. Those facing charges should take their cases seriously or have a criminal offense on record.