Risk management

Fleet safety series

Emergency warning devices

The Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety requires that emergency warning devices be placed on the highway within 10 minutes of bringing a disabled vehicle to a halt. 

All vehicles should be equipped with acceptable warning devices. 

At the present time, bi-directional reflective triangles are being recommended. Flares, lanterns, and other type reflectors can be used as supplements to the triangles, but not as a substitute for them. Remember that any flame producing warning devices should not be used on vehicles transporting flammable liquids, explosives, or compressed gases.

If vehicles must be stopped on the shoulder of an undivided street or highway with two way traffic, one warning device should be placed 10 feet to the front or rear of the vehicle depending upon the direction of approaching traffic. 

The second device should be placed 100 feet from the stopped vehicle in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder occupied by the vehicle and in a direction toward traffic approaching in that lane. 

The third should be placed 100 feet from the vehicle in the direction of traffic coming from the other direction. 

On a divided highway or a street with one way traffic, one warning device should be placed 10 feet to the rear of the vehicle, one device at a distance of 100 feet and one at a distance of 200 feet in a direction toward approaching traffic in the center of the lane or shoulder occupied by the vehicle. 

If a motor vehicle is stopped within 500 feet of a curve, crest of a hill or other obstruction, a warning device should be placed at a distance of 100 feet to 500 feet from the vehicle in the direction of the obstruction. The other devices should be placed at 10 feet and 100 feet intervals toward approaching traffic. 

The proper placement of warning devices during emergencies is an important function of a vehicle driver. Be sure adequate warning devices are available in your vehicles.


Insurance products and services are offered through Markel Specialty Commercial, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated, policies written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for coverage may vary by state.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.