Why do some stopped buses use indicators, and some use hazard lights?

It’s long been a bugbear of mine that a vehicle that has correctly stopped in a legal parking/stopping position should not use its hazard lights.

Some buses do this, despite being stopped in proper bus zones. Melbourne Bus Link appears to be one company whose buses mostly do this. Most buses from other operators seem to just use their left indicator.

I reckon use of hazard lights at bus stops is not only pointless, it actually causes problems when the bus driver wants to pull out.

Motorists are obliged by law to give way as a bus pulls out from the kerb, but the change from “hazard lights on” to “indicating right” is pretty much indistinguishable, because the motorist would have to be checking the bus’s left indicator and notice it stop flashing.

It also can cause problems if the bus driver forgets to turn off the hazard lights, and the bus continues down the road with them flashing.

Yes, the bus in the video above isn’t entirely within its lane — it looks like the lane simply isn’t wide enough. But the use of hazards happens everywhere with some bus companies. I don’t think it makes much sense in most cases.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Why do some stopped buses use indicators, and some use hazard lights?”

“Motorists are obliged by law to give way as a bus pulls out from the kerb”
I never knew that. I thought a bus was like any other vehicle where the driver had to wait until the road was clear.
You learn something every day.

I agree. MBL has implemented this within the last year or so and I understand that like trams, it happens automatically when the doors open and cancels when the doors shut. Having the hazards on at a stop completely undermines the effect of using indicators to move off from the kerb.

When the law was first implemented, the signs at the back of the bus foolishly said ‘Please Give Way’. It did not take too long before it was changed to ‘Give Way’.

MBL drivers seem very polite about pulling out into traffic. I can’t say the same for motorists who often force their way in front of the buses.

I think Melbourne bus drivers need to do some time in places like Brisbane, where the drivers know that other vehicles have to give way to them, and very happily “cut off” people when they are ready to depart.

It happened enough there, that people expect it, but not so much here from my observation.

The driver of a heavy vehicle has to use the hazard lights when stopping at the roadside, but this rule is written in the context of a heavy vehicle stopping and being made safe, not just stopping to pick up passengers. I expect the bus drivers are probably acting within the rule because they don’t know how long they will be stopped, and if they are stopping for several minutes then they certainly need the hazard lights on. However, it’s possible the rule also needs to operate slightly differently for vehicles only stopping to take on passengers, rather than stopping for minutes. I haven’t actually read the rule before writing this – I only know what is taught by instructors.

Right. Now I’ve read it. Any driver can use hazard lights when stopped if their vehicle is likely to cause an obstruction to traffic. A bus usually will, so the driver is entitled to use the hazard lights. School buses can use them whether or not they are causing an obstruction.

TOTALLY agree Daniel. The issue on having to check the LEFT blinker for a vehicle moving to the right is the real point. It is ridiculous. And it makes it harder for people who actually know the Give Way rule and obey it!

In some instances it’s simply not possible for the driver to see the left-hand indicator when passing in the lane to the right of the bus. This is especially so when there are multiple buses lined up behind each other.

From what I’ve observed, some bus companies order buses that automatically trip the hazards when the bus is stopped. Buses from SITA don’t have this function, even on their newer buses.

The hazard lights on the buses is a great point, but the real bug-bear for me as both a regular car driver and bus passenger, is only about 10% of drivers appear to know the Give Way to a departing bus rule. I mean, it’s right there on the rear of *every* bus!

Getting the 703 home from Bentligh station is astonishing. The cars on Centre Road have *no* idea, and continually cut off buses. Or they have some idea and don’t want a bus to get ahead of them.

If they go straight from hazards to pulling out, I wont be giving way. They’d need a transition period of several seconds ‘indicating’

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