Wednesday, August 29

Turn signals: A refresher

Disclaimer: I am not a driving instructor nor do I play one on TV.

I'm fascinated by the use or non-use of turn signals.  For those who may a bit uncertain on the concept or who have trouble understanding what might be happening should they see a turn signal blinking on a car, herewith.

One of my favorites is situational.  You're behind a car with the turn signal blinking.  As you approach any side road on which a turn might be made, you will naturally brace to start braking as is the case when approaching an intersection at which a turn might be made.  But these are the messages the driver could be sending:
  • I'm going to turn and slow down nearly to a complete stop as I make that turn because I'm oblivious to any cars behind me;
  • I know I need to turn somewhere along here but I'm not quite sure which is the right street; 
  • I'm going to turn eventually so just leave me alone; or
  • Dude, I turned about 8 miles back onto this road and just haven't turned off my signal.

Another favorite occurs when driving on the expressway or highway, especially during rush hour when everyone else's time and schedule is far more important than yours, or so other drivers seem to think.  These are the true believers in the law of defensive driving, which means that you must always been on the defensive for some nincompoop do something stupid.  In this case the turn signal often pops on even as the driver is starting to cross the line, and quite probably into your lane requiring you to slam on your brakes.  The message that driver is sending is this: "I know I'm supposed to use this turn thingy when I change lanes so I'm hitting it as I change lanes but only when I remember."

What those drivers don't quite seem to understand is that the turn signal is a signal of an intent to turn and there's a smidge of responsibility on the driver's part to make sure there is room for the lane change.

Another favorite is when a driver is trying to pull out of a shopping center, gas station, or just about any place and waiting for a break in traffic.  While watching for that break, and being sufficiently responsible to wait for an appropriate break, the waiting driver might see cars slowing down but not trust the driver is really turning in.  A turn signal would help, and I'm pretty sure they have these newfangled gadgets even on the fancy schmancy expensive cars.

So here's the deal:
  1. If you're planning to turn at an intersection or side street, you're supposed to start signaling at about 300 feet but several car lengths can work too.  It's a courtesy and it's information for those around you.
  2. If you're driving on a highway or expressway, start to your signal to inform others of your intent and then use those mirror thingys on the side of your card and dangling somewhere on the inside of your windshield to make sure there is room for you to change lanes without making other people slam on their brakes.
  3. When you're getting ready to turn into a parking lot of any kind, see #1.  Signal as you approach the parking lot because, well, it's a courtesy and information for those who may be waiting to get back on the street.
You see?  Turn signals are not a complicated part of your vehicle and actually kind of useful.  Trust me on this.

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