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I don’t know what’s in the water in automotive design schools and studios these days, but it seems like brake lights and turn signals are now considered unfashionable for some reason. Do they know that brake lights and turn signals are kind of like, y’know, a big safety thing? Designers don’t want to make these safety items legible and easily understandable by other drivers, instead, they’d rather obfuscate a decades-old design in the name of fashion.

Here are some of my worst offenders.

CHEVY BOLT EUV

Why Do Car Designers Like Hiding Turn Signals and Brake Lights?
2021 Chevy Bolt EUV. Image: Chevrolet

The Bolt EUV’s rear looks straightforward, no? There are two big brake light things on the back of the car, and a secondary light pattern underneath that has the turn signal (which I don’t like, but whatever), and reverse lights.

Ha, GM says F you, those big brake light shapes are the running lights, and the actual brake lights are in the bumper! Why? In my best Cardi B voice, “what was the reason?”

MiniClubman

Why Do Car Designers Like Hiding Turn Signals and Brake Lights?
2016 Mini Clubman S. Image: MINI

Like the Bolt EUV, the actual brake lights are in the bumper, and the brake light-shaped things are just the running lights. If you’ve followed a Clubman on the road before, it’s off-putting when they come to a stop, because the big brake light shapes don’t actually light up. For a split second, you’ll wonder “are they actually braking, or is this a mechanical problem?”

There are a few hacks to make the Clubman’s big fake brake lights work like regular brake lights, though. 

Land Rover Freelander 

Why Do Car Designers Like Hiding Turn Signals and Brake Lights?
2002 Land Rover Freelander. Image: Land Rover

Doug DeMuro wrote about this a few years ago — the Freelander’s brake light shapes don’t light up, with only the ones in the bumper functioning. Anecdotally, it seems like most Freelanders that have evaded the crusher because of a blown engine or transmission, have had alterations to make the fake brake lights work as real brake lights.

Any Modern Hyundai or Kia

Why Do Car Designers Like Hiding Turn Signals and Brake Lights?
2022 Hyundai Kona. Image: Hyundai

Kia and Hyundai products lately have been divorcing their turn signal lights, moving them to the bumper. Like all the other cars, following a Hyundai and Kia with their blinker on conjures an “oh shit, are they really?” moment as I figure out if that’s a turn signal or a mechanical error.

The turn signal lights are too low, and not obvious enough. They also look like they’d be a pain in the ass to change a bulb in, too.

These are just a few cars in the industry with horrible brake lights and indicators. I hope this trend doesn’t continue, lest we see a rise in rear-end accidents!

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