Daniel Susco
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Japanese Drivers Apparently Flash Their Hazard Lights To Say Thank You

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When driving, it becomes really difficult for people to directly communicate with one another – in fact, a lot of the rules of the road are meant to circumvent the need to talk, like the rules of who gets to go first at a four-way stop. Otherwise, traffic would be a chaotic affair of dodging the more reckless drivers and shouting out windows at each other.

However, there is one particular idea that people feel the need to tell each other on the road, even if they can’t speak to each other: “Thank you.”

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It seems that drivers in Japan have a very clear way of doing so, as pointed out by Brian Ashcraft on Kotaku: flashing their hazard lights. It even has its own term for it, according to Ashcraft—sankyuu hazaado, or “thank you hazard” (and if you also got uncomfortable reading that, don’t worry, I double-checked the translation, even though Google translate writes it as “Sankyūhazādo”).

Basically, it seems that, after a driver lets you in or lets you pass them, if you want to apologize for having cut in front of someone, or if you were to briefly intrude on their lane to go around something, if you were on Japanese roads you would then turn on your hazard lights, let them flash a few times, and turn them off again.

This, by the way, isn’t taught in most traffic schools, according to an instructor quoted in Japanese publication Traffic News, via NicoNico News—it seems that as people drive, they just see it in use, and adopt the practice naturally.

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Unfortunately, such a practice isn’t as commonplace in the states—a quick survey of my fellow editors found that as far as “thank you” goes, the main method is maybe a small wave or a hand lift—just something to acknowledge that yes, I noticed you did something nice, or yes, I know that I did something stupid, I am sorry—but driving on the highways around downtown Dayton has shown me that this is by no means a widespread practice (seeing a thank you wave does always make my day, though).

Perhaps we should give the Japanese thank you hazard a try.

News Sources: Kotaku, NicoNico News (Japanese language)