Most things are regulated in Germany. For example, a vehicle that has turn signals (indicators in other words) and more than three wheels needs to have hazard lights. If you switch them on, all the indicator lamps need to emit amber light with a frequency of 1.5 Hz, +/- 0.5 Hz. Inside, a conspicuous warning light in the driver’s field of vision needs to show that the lights are flashing outside. That’s all very well, but have you noticed that in each model this generally red button is in a different place? That really made me sweat last week when I was in someone else’s car at the end of a traffic jam. By the time I found the switch, braking hard, everyone behind me had fortunately put theirs on already.

Ford Taunus, construction year 1971

Following the latest standards, passengers now also need to be able to operate the switch for the hazard lights; so today you’ll usually find the button somewhere in the middle of the center console – in any shape or size. In our old Mercedes it sits right in the middle; in later models the button is a lot smaller and is hidden discreetly in the area where the right hand operates the sat nav and other functions using the control wheel. If you know it you’ll find it. I remember small French cars where the hazard light switch sits on top of the steering column like a buzzer. It would almost be invasive for the passenger to hit it. In the old VW T3 it’s one of the many rocker switches on the side of the dashboard. I’m slightly embarrassed to be telling you about my old Ford Taunus where the rocker switch is well hidden on the far left of the dashboard, at knee height near the driver’s door. Out of reach for anyone but the driver.

VW Van T3

So as soon as you get into an unfamiliar car (a rental car or a friend’s car) it makes perfect sense to check not only where all the general controls are, but also where this red switch is. In an emergency you usually don’t have time to look for it.

Mercedes E-Klasse, Model W 210

By the way, “emergency” is often misinterpreted and certainly doesn’t mean stopping beside a row of parked cars and popping into the shops. Or stopping at a bus stop, which some people think is justified if they put on their hazard lights. “I’ll only be a second, just posting a few letters.” That’s a no-go. Not only is parking prohibited here, but it’s a misuse of the hazard lights. Because you are only allowed to use them as a warning of danger, so for example at the end of a traffic jam as in my case, if your car breaks down in a dangerous place, or if a vehicle is being towed.

Mercedes 600 SEL, Model W 140

Can you say straight off where the hazard light switch is in your car? I can – well, now I can. Only because I’ve had to frantically and desperately search for it. That surely won’t happen again. Have you discovered any absurd places where the switch has been installed ex works? Like in my Taunus? Why not share it with us. We’re always curious.

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