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road sage

This may surprise regular readers but I have, on occasion, had accusations of negativity thrown my way. That's fair. I often take a grim view of cars, driving, commuting and anything else connected to the process of moving from one place to another. Hell isn't other people. It's other people in their cars.

That's negative and I'm guilty. That's why this week I'm pleased to present a completely positive driving story. This one is so upbeat it will leave you seeing rainbows and spewing sonnets.

What if I told you there is a device that allows you to do whatever you want whenever you want? What if this device offered you immunity from prosecution and moral censure? What if I told you this device comes standard with every automobile and is, in fact, one of the oldest pieces of automotive technology? What if I told you that operating this device is as simple as pressing any finger in a downward motion? Wouldn't you want to hop aboard this good news story?

Of course you would and I'm here to give you a hand up.

I'm talking about "hazard warning lights," which, when activated, cause all four of your vehicle's indicators to blink on and off. Hazard lights let everyone know that your car is a "hazard." It's broken down, for instance. Experts claim drivers should only use hazard warning lights if a car is in a dangerous location, broken down on the hard shoulder of a highway or if they wish to warn drivers of a "hazard or obstruction ahead."

Really? That's limited thinking.

When we examine the way most motorists use hazard lights, we see that they can do so much more. Most drivers use hazard lights so they can do something convenient for them but illegal and dangerous to everyone else. Say you're driving to work and you want to get a coffee but it's rush hour and stopping (let alone parking) is forbidden. No problem. Just flick your hazard lights on and you're good to go. No cop will touch you. Pick up your latte and hey, while you're at it, chat the barista up and get yourself a gluten-free muffin.

That's the beauty of hazard lights. They're like the "Invulnerable Coat of Arnd" in Dungeons & Dragons that renders the wearer "completely invulnerable to physical attacks, protects from spells, fire, acid, cold and disease." Hazard lights operate on a similar premise. They tell the world, "I'm doing something illegal but only for a while."

That's the key – the "a while" part. If you planned on blocking two lanes of traffic forever, that would be wrong. But the hazards say, "Relax, I'm not blocking these lanes forever, just for as long as I want to." Parking in a bike lane? Wrong. Hazards on? You're above reproach because you're only endangering cyclists until you've picked up your dry cleaning. When your hazard lights are on, you can do what you want when you want, and all the rest of us can do is stand by and applaud.

We need hazard-light technology expanded. We should put hazard lights into everything. Want to shoplift? Turn on your "Hazard Hat." Would a lie come in handy? Turn on your "Hazard Tongue." Mattress companies could start installing hazard lights into bed frames. Feel like cheating on your spouse? No problem. Just flick on the hazards and you have a free pass (but don't take longer than 15 minutes).

Hazard lights. One button. So many solutions.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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