to blink or not to blink, that is the question
May 20, 2010 3:50 PM   Subscribe

are new (beginning) drivers taught to use turn signals? if so, is turn signal use required by law?

and presuming that people are taught to use turn signals, and presuming that turn signals are required, why don't people use them & why don't cops enforce them?
posted by msconduct to Law & Government (31 answers total)
 
Yes. Yes. Some do.
posted by fixedgear at 3:52 PM on May 20, 2010


Yes, they are. Yes, they are required. People forget, but usually use them when they think they need them but not when they don't. Cops can and will pull you over for it, depending on their mood.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:52 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


They were required in NJ when I was getting my license. In fact, I failed my driver's test because I failed to signal before executing a 3-point turn.
posted by cabingirl at 3:54 PM on May 20, 2010


In California they are required.

In fact, I was docked points on my driving test because I signaled too early.
posted by M Edward at 3:58 PM on May 20, 2010


the problem with turn signals (and other driving laws that are for safety) is that everyone knows it's the law and so they follow it to the barest minimum and they aren't effectively taught that turn signals could save your life and property or the life/property of another.

bigger annoyances than not using the signal at all? people who flash it once when they're already in the other fucking lane and people who hit their brakes before a turn before turning on the signal.

my most repeated phrase in the car is "if only there were some sort of signal you could have used to let the other people around you know that you were wanting to turn!" sure, i'm talking to myself, but it makes me feel better.
posted by nadawi at 3:58 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


I once dated a woman who refused to use her turn signals when trying to merge into another lane of traffic. I asked her why and she said "if I use my turn signal, they'll KNOW I'm trying to merge and they'll never let me in!"

I thought that was the dumbest thing I'd ever seen or heard a driver do until I realized people somehow think it's OK to text while driving.

As George Carlin used to say... "Picture how stupid the average person is, and then realize half the population is stupider than that!" ...sad, but true.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:02 PM on May 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Are their use required by law? Here's the relevant traffic law for the state listed in your profile.
§104. Turning movements and required signals

A. No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection unless the vehicle is in proper position upon the roadway as required in R.S. 32:101, or turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway, or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.

B. Whenever a person intends to make a right or left turn which will take his vehicle from the highway it is then traveling, he shall give a signal of such intention in the manner described hereafter and such signal shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.

C. No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give such signal.

D. The signals provided for in R.S. 32:105(B) shall be used to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes or start from a parked position and shall not be flashed on one side only on a parked or disabled vehicle, or flashed as a courtesy or "do pass" signal to operators of other vehicles approaching from the rear.

Acts 1962, No. 310, §1. Amended by Acts 1963, No. 33, §2; Acts 1970, No. 538, §1.

§105. Signals by hand and arm or signal lamps

A. Any stop or turn signal when required herein shall be given either by means of the hand and arm as provided in R.S. 32:106 or by signal lamps, except as otherwise provided in Paragraph B.

B. Any motor vehicle in use on a highway shall be equipped with, and the required signal shall be given by, signal lamps when the vehicle is so constructed, loaded or operated as to prevent the hand and arm signal from being visible, both to the front and to the rear.

Acts 1962, No. 310, §1. Amended by Acts 1970, No. 538, §2.
Are drivers taught how to use the signals? It's covered in Chapter 3 of your state's driver's handbook thus it would be highly likely that their proper use is taught in driving school.

Not sure why people don't use them but then again I was amazed by the existence of drive-through daiquiri huts outside of NOLO.

I'd imagine the lack of enforcement can be a combination of confirmation bias and that it's a relatively minor offense.
posted by jamaro at 4:05 PM on May 20, 2010


Yes and yes, though as one person posted above, in areas like Boston, the accepted practice is to not use signals in some situations, so that you can actually accomplish your merge before some jerk cuts you off.

Yes, Massholist
posted by zippy at 4:10 PM on May 20, 2010


I've heard a story about a cop who said that he could follow anyone for 10 minutes and they would have a violation. So yeah, half of us are below average skill level.
posted by notned at 4:12 PM on May 20, 2010


You'd think in Central Texas it is optional as not even the cops signal their intentions. You can spot the transplants by their use of the blinker. Or, among people who are about to do something incredibly stupid/dangerous/illegal like a U-turn from the right lane.

In other places, I've seen more people use their signals. I grew up and learned to drive in California. I'll use my blinker if I'm in the middle of the desert and there aren't other cars around for miles. After seeing my native Texan friend why he never signaled he looked at me like I was asking him a question in a foreign language.

But it is taught in driver's ed classes, a question on exams, and you can get a ticket for it in every place I've ever been. In Texas, working signals are required to pass the annual vehicle safety inspection.
posted by birdherder at 4:13 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I once dated a woman who refused to use her turn signals when trying to merge into another lane of traffic. I asked her why and she said "if I use my turn signal, they'll KNOW I'm trying to merge and they'll never let me in!"

I spent a bit of time in Texas, and when I moved there, a co-worker warned me not to use turn signals when I wanted to merge. I thought that was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard a driver do until I used my turn signal and the guy in the next lane over sped up to keep me from merging. And then it happened again and again, and I just stopped using my turn signals to merge after that. So it's actually a good strategy when you're driving amongst assholes.
posted by adiabat at 4:21 PM on May 20, 2010


People fail to signal for the same reason we roll through stop signs: we are invincible, uniquely important and occasionally total assholes. Especially when we're 17, and form our driving habits for life.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:25 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


[A few comments removed, please either answer the question as best you can or stay out of the thread. You know where metatalk is if you need it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:26 PM on May 20, 2010


the funny thing is i see cops neglecting to use turn signals more than anybody else.
posted by TrialByMedia at 4:33 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am old enough to know the history of this stuff. When urn signals optional equipment on cars (you paid extra for them) people made hand signals. But "back then" few people drove at night and traffic lights usually on and off red (ie, stop and then proceed)...so during the day signal lights not needed and at night not enough people out to use them...When they became standard on cars, everyone used them. Then the novelty wore off and now few people use them though the law remains in place...In my area, I note the police often fail to use them when they go to make turns...what does that tell you?
posted by Postroad at 4:36 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, turn signal use is a legal requirement. It's covered in the idiotic, 2nd-grade-level pamphlet that my state gives out for people to "study" for their driver's "test", but I'd guess that most people never actually learn when it's appropriate to use them.

I'll add that, as a motorcyclist, the number one cause of "close calls" -- incidents where I've almost died -- have been caused by people failing to use turn signals to change lanes.
posted by coolguymichael at 4:37 PM on May 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


A large number of people seem to think they are only for turning at intersections, rather than lane-changing. This is wrong, but seems to be a very very common belief.
posted by rokusan at 4:47 PM on May 20, 2010


NYS, failed my first driver's test for not using a blinker while pulling away from the curb.

Most people don't use them when changing lanes or in left/right-turn-only lanes, but the cops are also pretty preoccupied running down the people talking on their phones or doing 80 in a 55 in this part of the state, so I think it boils down to the fact that it's a minor offense. In some cities you're more likely to get knocked for it because city cops have ticket quotas, however.
posted by iarerach at 4:49 PM on May 20, 2010


It ain't just Texas. "Don't use your turn signals or you'll get cut off" was a rule of the road when I lived in Detroit, too. You still have to signal, though -- you just do it by pulling up next to the space you'd like to get into, and if the driver you'd be in front of agrees, he eases up slightly until there is just enough space for you to get in (since usually there would be at most ten feet between his front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front of him). And then you get in as quickly as possible, going exactly the same speed as he is to avoid making him slow down and to avoid slowing down the people in your old lane who will be trying to pass.
posted by kindall at 4:55 PM on May 20, 2010


My wife was once pulled over for not engaging her turn signal 150ft. before her planned turn.

The police happened to be looking for a criminal who had been driving the same make/model of car that she was driving; the turn signal was just a pretext to get her pulled over.
posted by circular at 5:05 PM on May 20, 2010


In driver's ed, I was taught, when changing lanes, to make sure I had room, and then change lanes and use my turn signal simultaneously. That way, I wouldn't be cut off by a car not wanting to let me in, but I'd be following the law by using the turn signal.
posted by reductiondesign at 5:37 PM on May 20, 2010


In Oregon, if you use your turn signal to indicate that you'd like to merge in, people will make room for you!

Yes, turn signals are required. They are a smart thing to do. And they are used as an excuse for a cop to pull you over if he sees you doing other stupid stuff or thinks you are a dastardly criminal up to no good.

My father-in-law picked up some very bad driving habits in DC and when he visits, my husband has to remind him to use his signal to merge, "Dad, you're causing Oregonians to road rage -- use your blinker."
posted by amanda at 6:04 PM on May 20, 2010


In Maryland, you are not required to use your turn signals when changing lanes. A bill to require signaling was introduced in 2009 and passed in the House but not in the Senate. Here is an article about the bill.
posted by candyland at 6:13 PM on May 20, 2010


Yes, according to my state's driver manual. But people really act like it's optional. It's one of my personal pet peeves!
posted by Prairie at 8:12 PM on May 20, 2010


People don't signal because people drive like idiots. On this planet.
posted by ovvl at 8:36 PM on May 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know the law for Michigan offhand, but from the state of things, only about 10% of people in my experience use their turn signal here. It's dangerous and it pisses me off, and if it's not illegal it should be!
posted by asciident at 8:52 PM on May 20, 2010


In Massachusetts it's the law, but, you'd never know it to drive the streets here...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 5:18 AM on May 21, 2010


In Manitoba you are definitely taught, tested and required to use turn signals. A lot of people don't, or use them at really odd times...

Changing lanes into the turning lane? No blinker.
Now following said turning lane around the corner, having no legal option to do anything else but turn? That gets a blinker.

I really don't understand some people.

It's hit or miss whether people will squeeze you out or let you in for a lane change if you signal. I take the opposite approach and if I see someone signal, I let them in every time. If I see someone jockeying for a lane change with no signal, I will speed up or slow down to not let them in. Maybe I'm a jerk too.
posted by utsutsu at 7:48 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Don't use your turn signals or you'll get cut off" was a rule of the road when I lived in Detroit, too. You still have to signal, though -- you just do it by pulling up next to the space you'd like to get into, and if the driver you'd be in front of agrees, he eases up slightly until there is just enough space for you to get in (since usually there would be at most ten feet between his front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front of him). And then you get in as quickly as possible, going exactly the same speed as he is to avoid making him slow down and to avoid slowing down the people in your old lane who will be trying to pass.

I drive between Detroit and Ann Arbor on I-94 every day and always signal my merges before doing this basic operation. I usually succeed, so I don't think the signal sets off an "Oh no you don't!" urge in Michiganders any more.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:55 AM on May 21, 2010


I was taught to use turn signals religiously, as it was your way of politely letting everyone know what the hell you were up to - but that was back in the 80s in Kansas. (Where there are no hills and no one ever needs to parallel park.) I think everyone can tell I'm not from CA just because not only do I still use em (in town, on highway, everywhere) I will also wave a thank you sometimes when people are extra nice and let me merge. (Merging onto some CA highways is a kind of sport, something like roller derby meets cage fighting, only in cars. No that doesn't make sense, but neither does the way some folks try and merge.)

Suddenly I realize that if my teenage self were to meet my current self gratefully waving to strangers she'd be, like, so embarrassed at my uncoolness. Bah.
posted by batgrlHG at 10:10 PM on May 21, 2010


When people turn on their left-turn signal, we should expect them to turn left.
When people turn on their right-turn signal, we should expect them to turn right.
It's quite straight-forward.

The people who don't signal when they turn are liars. By not signaling, they're telling others that they want to go straight ahead, and that's exactly what others should expect them to do. The only thing is that they don't go straight. They lie to every driver/pedestrian that can see them, whether they notice or not. Is it called a car "accident" when people knowingly perform dangerous acts on the road repeatedly, and expect to go home unscathed?
posted by jayne at 6:49 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


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