Why don't drivers use their turn signals?
January 23, 2015 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Why don't drivers at least in California don't use their turn signals?

Ever since I have moved to the US I have notices that almost no one uses their turn signals. It drives me nuts. I thought it was a SF Bay Area thing but now I have traveled around I noticed the same all over.

Why is that?
posted by Mac-Expert to Travel & Transportation around California (62 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Laziness + relative lack of enforcement + a little confirmation bias on your part, probably.
posted by emelenjr at 10:08 AM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Because no one calls them on it. Cops will generally only bother pulling you over for that if you're being dangerous (e.g., swerving in and out of lanes) and then tack on "failure to signal."

It does vary, though -- I find that drivers in the Midwest are better about it, and drivers in the South for some reason use them almost every time, but only during the turn.
posted by Etrigan at 10:09 AM on January 23, 2015


More like a LOT of confirmation bias on your part.
posted by Bretley at 10:09 AM on January 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's a regional thing. When I lived in upstate NY, people mostly used turn signals. We moved to MA, and just about no one uses them. I don't get it, either.
posted by Kriesa at 10:10 AM on January 23, 2015


Because it's very rarely fatal and people are lazy. It annoys me too, but I'll confess that I've pretty much stopped using my turn signals when changing lanes on the freeway unless there's a ton of traffic. But yeah, it's not universal.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:11 AM on January 23, 2015


In some major cities, driving is very competitive, especially where there is significant congestion. Some people signal only to say "I'm coming over," because if you signal before you change lanes, no one will ever let you get in.

It's not a rule or anything, just a common observation of mine in Los Angeles and some up near San Francisco. Get out where there's fewer cars and more space, people are generally nicer about letting you merge in ahead of them.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:11 AM on January 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


The older I get, the more I come to the conclusion that no one uses turn signals correctly, there is only one right way to eat a use a turn signal, and that way is the way you do it. Everyone is wrong except for me!
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:14 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Someone from Massachusetts once explained to me that he didn't want to let the other drivers know what he was planning because it would give them the opportunity to screw him over.

(In my experience, most people in Minnesota do seem to use them.)
posted by Area Man at 10:15 AM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


The cynic in me says it's because we're self-centered and signaling is essentially a favor to other people. God forbid we do other people any favors.

That said, it was drilled into me with such ferocity when I was learning to drive that it's an automatic function for me now. I'm sure I forget occasionally, and never even notice, because I never notice when I *do* signal.

But I'm in LA and I see people signal all the time, which I notice because I get mad at the ones who don't. The times I most notice it not happening is when - because apparently the California freeway system is planned as a sort of poorly-kept secret - you suddenly realize you need to be three lanes to the left to get into the secret hidden onramp that goes the wrong way before it goes the right way, and there's no signs until you're 12 feet away.

Also sometimes Waze kind of sneaks a turn up on me much closer than I realized.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:16 AM on January 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Why is that?

They weren't taught properly and there is no feedback system to alert someone who has failed to use a turn signal.

In Massachusetts this isn't just about changing lanes. I see it all the time with cars pulling out of parking lots, for example. The drivers seem to think it doesn't matter. I want to shout at them or honk my horn or something, but I know that there's no way to make it clear what I'm trying to tell them. It's very frustrating because it would improve safety and traffic flow if they'd indicate which way they're planning on turning.
posted by alms at 10:18 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know where you moved here from, but I've lived in the United States my whole life and never noticed what terrible drivers we are until I started driving in Europe. There seems to be an assumption here that driving is a right, not a privilege - therefore, a lot of people tend to do whatever they want with no thought to potential consequences. Most recently I drove for two weeks in Spain, which does not have a very good reputation for being a safe place to drive. However, not one person cut us off or behaved in a dangerous, unpredictable way the entire time - and then I came home and was cut off twice in a four mile trip to the supermarket.

Naturally this is a large generalization, but it's one that keeps being born out by my own experience. I think our car culture in America makes driving a thing we take very much for granted, and it makes people less than courteous as a result.
posted by something something at 10:18 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I use my turn signals all the time. I think it is as a result of just having taught (within the last 5 years) all three of my kids to drive. In the summer, with the windows down, I use my hand signals. I am not sure anyone behind me knows what I am up to.

I did get pulled over once on Route 80 in NJ. It is a long story that involves a search, contraband and being let go, but at the end I asked the officer why he pulled me over in the first place. He said, "Improper lane change." "But officer, I had my signal on." "You did, but it took you too long to change lanes," was his lame excuse.
posted by 724A at 10:19 AM on January 23, 2015


Because enforcement is low, drivers ed is a travesty, and people are thoughtless. Were you expecting something else?

I live in San Francisco and drive to work down the Peninsula. Many, many people use their signals. Many don't.
posted by rtha at 10:19 AM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


California driver: I use it sporadically. For example, I use it to "ask" someone to let me into their lane. Or if I can see someone wanting to pull out from a cross street or driveway but I'll be turning before I get to them I do it as a courtesy. But just changing lanes on the freeway if there isn't a car close in that lane or turning when no one else is trying to make a driving decision based on my actions or if I'm in a left turn only lane, I don't bother. I am less bothered by people who don't use their turn signals than I am by those who forget to turn them off.
posted by cecic at 10:20 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok. I live in the Bay Area. About 20 min drive outside San Francisco. I've lived here for awhile now (grew up here).

I use my turn signal religiously. I commute via 101 primarily and 280 occasionally and I see plenty of people using their turn signals. Yes, you have a certain amount assholes or distracted people that don't use their signals but I really think there's a lot of confirmation bias (probably on my side too) when people claim "no one" in California (can't really speak for the rest of the US) uses their turn signals.

I mean, I see people signal ALL THE TIME every day on my commute when they want to change lanes, or exit the freeway or make a turn. And I see people do all those things without signalling ALL THE TIME as well. It's a mixed bag. I think this whole "people don't use signals" thing is way overblown.
posted by moxiequz at 10:20 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Having traveled around, I'd say it's mostly a SF Bay Area and Los Angeles Area thing to not use turn signals regularly. However, I wouldn't even say it's the majority of time people don't do it, but they skip using them enough that I notice (maybe 1/3 of the time I see a lane change without one in those places?).

Seattle, Portland, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana when I've driven extensively people seem to use turn signals always with rare exceptions. On the west coast, those two metro areas seem to be the outliers.
posted by mathowie at 10:21 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I now live in California after learning to drive in Louisiana and spending many years driving in New York City.

I'm not sure it's widespread outside California, but, yeah, this is definitely a thing. One thing I've noticed that is very weird to me is that, universally, California drivers will not signal turns if they're in a turning lane, and nor do Californians ever signal when they exit a freeway. This is universal enough that I would guess these things aren't required by CA law, are not penalized on drivers license tests, and are not taught to new drivers. (Learning to drive in Louisiana I was taught that you definitely always signal in these cases, and I did not notice New Yorkers not doing so.)

Never ever using the turn signal ever seems to be more rare in California. My assessment is that these people are just dicks and it's not specific to California drivers. (I do notice more of them here in L.A., but if you think about it, I probably see more drivers in my L.A. commute than I ever did in rural Louisiana or relatively freeway-light NYC.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 AM on January 23, 2015


There may be differences in education. Most new drivers in the US take some form of driver education, but these classes aren't generally mandatory like they are in some other countries, and their content and quality vary depending on where someone obtained their license.

In Seattle, I think most drivers use their signals most of the time, but failure to signal is fairly common nonetheless.

For me it's an automatic action, so I signal every turn or lane change regardless of whether I see any other cars/bikes/pedestrians. I always wonder about people who say they only use it when other cars are around. Isn't it easier to do it without thinking than to scan for other road users every time? And what about the bicyclist you didn't see sneak into your blind spot?
posted by mbrubeck at 10:24 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


What gets my goat here in NYC is drivers who don't use their signals until the very last moment, i.e. right after the light turns green and they're already in the middle of the intersection.

I do think that there's a bit of "I'm not showing you where I'm going so you can't cut me off" going on here.
posted by monospace at 10:30 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to confirm your confirmation bias, because failure to signal in California is a real thing. It's worse in San Diego and LA than the Bay area, but it's there.

These two comments below are surely pointing to a correct part of the problem, because when you turn on your signal, too many other drivers totally, really do speed up to get in your way and refuse to let you change your position. All. The. Time. I know, because I'm fervent signaler (even signalling in the turn lanes at lights, because sometimes those lanes are poorly marked with signs or could also allow you to go straight, so I'm letting the drivers behind me know what to expect so they don't — and they sometimes do this anyway — try to pass me on the left in the oncoming lane to make their own left turn).

Some people signal only to say "I'm coming over," because if you signal before you change lanes, no one will ever let you get in.

Someone from Massachusetts once explained to me that he didn't want to let the other drivers know what he was planning because it would give them the opportunity to screw him over.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:30 AM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


he didn't want to let the other drivers know what he was planning

I've heard this said too. It's utterly mystifying to me, unless the goal is to cause accidents.
posted by bonehead at 10:31 AM on January 23, 2015


My ex-husband, who was a professional driver as part of his military career and who knew how to drive in snow and all kinds of terrible conditions and had driven all over the US, loathed driving in California and had nothing but complaints about how terrible California was.

So I am betting it's a California thing.
posted by Michele in California at 10:33 AM on January 23, 2015


Two reasons:
  • group self-reinforcement: because people don't see other drivers signalling, they don't feel like they need to do it themselves either. This becomes a self-perpetuating thing.
  • negative reinforcement: in places where aggressive driving is too common, if you signal your intention before moving into a gap, other drivers use that advance warning to speed up and prevent you from getting in front of them.

posted by FishBike at 10:35 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I try to always use my turn signals, though if I'm holding a latte and changing lanes on the freeway when traffic is light, I don't bother. So maybe they are holding things. Like phones.
posted by JenMarie at 10:36 AM on January 23, 2015


The only time I've seen this happen on more than a sporadic basis is in California.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:42 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of a workplace conversation that cracked me up many years ago, discussing why so many California drivers don't bother signalling. We were a few migrants and one California native, who made no comment except to wonder out loud,
"Isn't it illegal?"
posted by Rash at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


But just changing lanes on the freeway if there isn't a car close in that lane or turning when no one else is trying to make a driving decision based on my actions or if I'm in a left turn only lane, I don't bother.

There's the fault in some people's logic. That it's obvious enough what they're doing or there's no one around to signal to, when it's the people to whom what you're doing isn't obvious (or aren't paying that much attention, i.e. everyone) and those you don't see that you're signaling to.

As noted there are many reasons that people would rather endanger themselves and everyone around them than stick out a finger to flip a lever, but this is one that it's sometimes easy to see in how people conduct themselves. Especially when they're wrong about the above assumptions.
posted by cmoj at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


What gets my goat here in NYC is drivers who don't use their signals until the very last moment, i.e. right after the light turns green and they're already in the middle of the intersection.

I do think that there's a bit of "I'm not showing you where I'm going so you can't cut me off" going on here.


It is, but this is really more an issue with lane changes than with turns. I was actually taught (in suburban NYC) not to signal until I'm about go in a lane change - it's look-signal-go.

Anecdotally, I do recall thinking LA drivers were stingy with the signal when I was there. I assumed it was because they are in their cars all the time and, as a result, kind of seem to drive on auto-pilot, but I wouldn't really know as I was in LA for all of three days.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:46 AM on January 23, 2015


Not using them is very common in New Mexico, also. As a hardly-ever driver, it's petrifying. In my part of New York State, people always use them, and here in D.C. virtually everyone does, too.
posted by jgirl at 10:48 AM on January 23, 2015


Also, signaling is a matter of habit. I bet a lot of people who "don't signal when no other cars are around" hardly ever signal even when other cars are around.

(My apologies to those people in this thread. Needless to say, I don't agree with you.)
posted by breakin' the law at 10:48 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


when you turn on your signal, too many other drivers totally, really do speed up to get in your way and refuse to let you change your position.

I must point out that such behavior is common on the Beltway and other DC highways, and my guess is it occurs everywhere there's too much congestion. Commuter driving becomes a competitive sport in such locations.
posted by Rash at 10:51 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've lived in lots of places in the US and (a) don't think this is more common in CA (where I live now) than elsewhere, and (b) certainly think the idea that "most" people don't signal is way off. Some don't its true, but the vast majority do.
posted by thefoxgod at 10:58 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


It depends on what you mean.

For lane changes, Californians are about the same as people everywhere as far as I can tell, they use their signals sometimes.

For actual turns, most of the Bay Area has dedicated turn lanes and dedicated turn lights and since there's no question as to what you're doing, so people don't seem to bother to signal.

In Ontario where there are very few advance turn lights and you fight to make a left through an intersection, everyone uses their turn signals because otherwise you look like an idiot parked in the middle of the intersection for no reason.

For right turns again most people everywhere just don't bother to signal.
posted by GuyZero at 10:59 AM on January 23, 2015


and drivers in the South for some reason use them almost every time, but only during the turn.

I'll take this as further evidence that Atlanta is not part of the South.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:01 AM on January 23, 2015


I'm a California native who moved to Wisconsin recently, and it does seem like drivers are generally a bit better about signalling here, but I always signaled in CA, and it seemed like most people did, even if at a lower frequency than elsewhere, at least in situations where it would be an issue. The only situations I didn't regularly signal in were some that Sara C. described, exiting a freeway, and also entering the freeway if there's no temporary lane and the on-ramp merges into the freeway, because where the hell do you think I'm going to go?

I've never had an issue with people cutting me off on purpose while signaling, but I try not to make last minute lane changes, and I can be pretty aggressive about "oh yes, I AM coming over there".

I think one thing that's a huge difference in other parts of the country is that a lot of freeways only have two lanes on a side, while freeways in most parts of California have at least 4, and I've noticed that Californians are absolutely horrible about staying in the right lane. Staying in the right lane except to pass seems to me like it would engender more of a signaling culture than driving in 4 lanes where people pretty much just end up in whatever lane. At least, places I've been with two lane freeways, the passing drivers are pretty good at signaling their intent, which may just get people in the habit.

It should also be noted that populated parts of California are full of transplants, so I don't know if bad drivers are predisposed to move there or what. I was at a party once where the group I was in was complaining about local drivers, and I asked all the people who learned to drive in CA to raise their hands. I was the only one, so....
posted by LionIndex at 11:02 AM on January 23, 2015


Someone from Massachusetts once explained to me that he didn't want to let the other drivers know what he was planning because it would give them the opportunity to screw him over.

Which is why the 2nd definition of Masshole exists with such frequency

That said, It's just as much of an issue in NY and northern NJ.
posted by TravellingCari at 11:10 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've noticed that Californians are absolutely horrible about staying in the right lane.

By this, I mean on a two-lane freeway. Californians are horrible about keeping the passing lane clear. We're also horrible about doing that on 4 lane freeways and in carpool lanes (don't get me started on people who use the carpool lane to go slower than the rest of the traffic on the freeway), but it doesn't screw things up as much in those situations.
posted by LionIndex at 11:11 AM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why don't drivers at least in California don't use their turn signals?

They probably forgot
posted by Greg Nog at 11:18 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


For actual turns, most of the Bay Area has dedicated turn lanes and dedicated turn lights and since there's no question as to what you're doing, so people don't seem to bother to signal.

People certainly believe this, but honestly, once you have covered up the turn only arrows with your car, drivers facing you may not be able to tell it's a turn only lane. So I wish people would cut this crap out.

I think not signalling is super rude. Seriously, your hand is on the wheel already, you need only flick your fingers a few extra inches. It is not a Herculean task. That said, I don't find California noticeably different from Michigan (these are the two places I drive/bike with some regularity). A lot of people do signal, a lot of people don't, and I tend to yell at the latter.
posted by ktkt at 11:37 AM on January 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Honestly, I have a hard time buying the laziness argument. You're talking about a miniscule amount of effort that's also a good way to keep people from plowing into your car—and into you. That goes way beyond simple laziness.

I suspect that a lot of it is ingrained American recalcitrance. "It's none of your god damn business which way I'm turning." That and self-absorption seem to be part of the American character.
posted by Flexagon at 11:44 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have always thought that it is because most people assume there is little consequence as to whether or not they signal properly. "Hey, vignettist is waiting patiently in the turn lane as my vehicle is on-coming, but I won't bother to signal that I'll be turning before I get to the intersection..." Irritating for me to be sure, but of no consequence to the other driver. This is not true of course, but that's just always been my take on it.

Whereas in places that have actual weather and where not signaling can result in actual consequences of accidents, I assume people are more cognizant of signaling.
posted by vignettist at 12:14 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm chiming in to agree with the other Mefites who say its a side effect of aggressive driving. Every once in a while, I get the experience the pure, unadulterated joy that is driving in and out of D.C. around rush hour. If I turn on my lane signal to indicate that I want to switch lanes, somewhere between 25% and 75% of D.C. drivers will refuse to let me in. (I'm giving a fairly wide range because I think D.C. drivers are a lot more aggressive when traffic is really, really awful, and they are less likely to let me in if I don't switch lanes aggressively after signaling.) If I don't use my signal, I have about 90% success rate of switching lanes.
posted by emilynoa at 12:18 PM on January 23, 2015


In Massachusetts using them is a sign of weakness. However, one can use them as a decoy, or feint; if you leave the left blinker on when in highway traffic, some people will hesitate to pass you. Which is good because anyone that hesitates you don't want them in front of you anyway.
posted by Gungho at 12:55 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's an education thing. In the UK, getting a driving licence is a difficult and expensive job. You're looking at 6 months of twice-weekly lessons, a difficult theory test, followed by a very strict one hour practical driving test. Very few people pass first time. In the US, not so much!

Europeans have the use of the turn signals (indicators) drilled in from day one. You will instantly fail your driving test should you not use them, and go through the hassle and expense of another test a few months down the line. It's rare to see someone not use their signal, and everyone considers them a complete asshole when you do.
posted by derbs at 12:57 PM on January 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm in urban North Carolina and I see this problem all the time. At the risk of sounding biased, it seems to have gotten worse in my area with the large influx of northerners who have different habits, plus we have a lot of pretty nervous-seeming drivers who are recently arrived from outside the US. The latter tend to signal fine but do other dangerous things like driving really slow or hesitantly or making last-second decisions. There's no monopoly though because everyone is a terrible driver if you set out to look for mistakes. And of course everyone is ON THE PHONE. The driving test is super easy and you never have to take a road test a second time, plus there's no enforcement. Since I drive boringly (like, I signal when alone in parking lots), I notice lots of other stuff that doesn't seem to get enforced:

* driving 20 mph over the limit on the busy beltway which has sudden short exits/entrances and lots of pop-up traffic jams
* talking on the phone - like people are parking and going "HEY I'M ALMOST THERE!!"
* lane drifting (usually related to phones - recently my wife watched a guy do this continuously for like 5 miles and she eventually stopped and called 911 with his plate number)
* not signaling, or not signaling ahead of time
* driving slow in the left lane or tailgating in the right lane
* generally tailgating (I leave a nice big chunk of space in front of me, because that's the correct way)
* driving in the rain or at dusk with the lights off
* driving really fast in parking lots (more obvious when I'm walking) or on residential streets with cars on both sides. I want more of those nice "axle-breaker" speed bumps because I'm a bastard.
* pulling 10 feet past a stop sign instead of stopping behind the sign and then pulling forward. This slows traffic because when people on a main street see side-streeters screech right up to the road's edge, they slow down. Then the guy turning has to wait longer to turn anyway so the joke's on him.
* running red lights (so much so that when my light goes green and I'm in front, I now count to 3 then hit the gas. This has saved my life several times.)

In short, people are terrible and no one cares about doing things correctly. That is my curmudgeonly answer. I would love it if we went back to enforcing all that stuff, but people are really entitled and would probably revolt. Self-driving cars are going to be a HUGE improvement.

By the way, my state driver's handbook says this: "Signal at least the last 100 feet before turning or stopping. If the speed limit is 45 mph or more, signal at least the last 200 feet before turning. The faster you are driving, the farther ahead you should signal."

I'll leave it up to you to decide if people are doing this. If you do see someone doing it, wave to me :-)
posted by freecellwizard at 1:01 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


A lack of adequate driver's education may well be part of the problem , but I wouldn't take that article in the Guardian as providing a comprehensive explanation of how driver's education works in the U.S. Things vary here some state by state and getting a license can be more difficult for younger drivers (I had to take a class for a semester in high school, had sessions with an instructor, time on a simulators, practice with my parents, and a test that sounds more difficult than what was portrayed in that article.)
posted by Area Man at 1:16 PM on January 23, 2015


George Carlin did a routine about what he called "Dumb Darts". Everyone drives around with a dart gun, and when you see another driver do something stupid - like not signal - you shoot their car. The trick is that (somehow) the darts don't come off easily. So if a cop sees a car that has more than (say) 5 darts stuck to it, the cop gives them a ticket (and I guess removes the darts with a secret government technique).

Of course you can't really have people shooting darts at each other. But I can't help but wonder if you could approximate this system with an app ...

(Although by the time they got all of the bugs out, we may have perfected self-driving vehicles).
posted by doctor tough love at 1:21 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought Colorado was bad, and then I moved to the Central Valley in California, where almost no one bothers to signal. For anything. Ever. Even the cops.
posted by Lycaon_pictus at 1:37 PM on January 23, 2015


People certainly believe this, but honestly, once you have covered up the turn only arrows with your car, drivers facing you may not be able to tell it's a turn only lane. So I wish people would cut this crap out.

it doesn't matter. Every intersection I've been in (outside of SF I guess) also has dedicated turn lights. It doesn't matter what you think. If you have a green light, you go. If not, you stop. You only have to look at cars to ensure that no one has lost their minds and decided to run a red.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on January 23, 2015


Every intersection I've been in (outside of SF I guess) also has dedicated turn lights.

Here in LA its very common to have a dedicated turn lane but no dedicated turn light. (Hence the LA "two cars get to turn left, even if the light already turned red" [since people going straight keep going well through the yellow, so there is no break to turn left]).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:13 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Er, thats not an actual law of course, but its standard practice. I've done it in front of cops / seen it done in front of cops many many times and never seen them say/do anything)
posted by thefoxgod at 2:14 PM on January 23, 2015


Yet another reason it's best to always signal, even if you assume everyone around you will know it's a no-brainer what you intend to do. Because not everywhere has roads marked the same way.

Even within Los Angeles, it's a total crapshoot how a given intersection is going to be arranged. Ditto for freeways. There are some loose generalizations that can be made, but JESUS PEOPLE JUST SIGNAL OK
posted by Sara C. at 2:20 PM on January 23, 2015


WoW did I open a can of worms or what?

Yes I am from the Netherlands where driving is very disciplined.
And I did notice that in the Mid West drivers are much better at it than in the SF Bay Area or in Ventura county where we recently moved to.

Even the cops don't use their turn signals. Not even to make a left on an intersection...

Drives me nuts to stand and wait at the the entrance of the parking lot waiting for that car to pass by only to make a right into the the lot. Would have been very nice to know that he/she did not want to go straight. Its a matter of being polite. But that doesn't count here I guess. It ME FIRST.

Agreed about the competitiveness of driving here. Don't let them know what your plans are they might screw you... I got screwed all the time (cut off, run of the freeway etc) but that has stopped since I upgraded from a Focus to a RAM 2500 4x4...
posted by Mac-Expert at 2:27 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


thats not an actual law

You're talking about left-turners entering the intersection, who must then wait for opposing traffic to stop before completion of their turn. At that point, yes, the light is red, but since they entered the intersection when the light is green, this IS a legal move. (As I was taught in traffic school, by an actual California policeman.)
posted by Rash at 2:29 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Failure to signal for much of anything is alarmingly common in the US. I don't really understand it myself -- consistent signaling is a good way to stay focused when driving, and helps avoid potential problems. Plus if you've trained yourself to do it consistently whether needed or not, you know you'll signal when it's really important.

My favorite example of why signaling lane changes on a multi-lane freeway is a good idea happened a few weeks ago. I'd left a decent amount of following distance between my car and the one ahead of me, while maintaining the same speed (which totally confuses people who apparently can't think of any reasons not to follow within a car length of the person in front of you at 65 MPH.) So there was enough space there for a car to get in easily. And a car each from the lane to my left and the lane to my right tried to take that space at the same time, with no signals. Side-panel collision, and luckily, since they were traveling the same direction at about the same speed, both drivers managed to pull several lanes over to the shoulder to inspect their vehicles and themselves for damages without any break in traffic flow.

If either one of those drivers had signaled, that wouldn't have happened.
posted by asperity at 2:42 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


By this, I mean on a two-lane freeway. Californians are horrible about keeping the passing lane clear. We're also horrible about doing that on 4 lane freeways and in carpool lanes (don't get me started on people who use the carpool lane to go slower than the rest of the traffic on the freeway), but it doesn't screw things up as much in those situations.

Depends on which two-lane freeway you're talking about. Most people who regularly travel on 99 or 5, at least in the really boring San Joaquin Valley parts, stay the hell over unless they're passing and they get the hell over when someone zooms up behind them. Now on 80 through the Sierras and over Donner Summit? That's filled with idiots who don't know when to get over, but it's also perilously narrow in parts, and it's full of trucks that are dealing with some major grades and elevation changes.

I signal always. And I hate hate HATE people that don't realize that when there are intermittent carpool lanes and it's currently carpool time? That is no longer the fast lane! You are in the fast lane! I cannot use the carpool lane to pass you if I am not a carpool, so MOVE OVER.

*ahem* Thank you.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:29 PM on January 23, 2015


Drives me nuts to stand and wait at the the entrance of the parking lot waiting for that car to pass by only to make a right into the the lot. Would have been very nice to know that he/she did not want to go straight.

That pisses me off to no end. However, now, when I see someone with their turn signal on, say to turn right before me, I DON"T TRUST the signal. I end up waiting anyway until they have begun their turn. I drove daily in NYC for years. I can tell you that the signal is secondary. Watch the front wheels. The problem in Manhattan is that people think that the using the signal gives them the right to move lanes without regard to traffic. Folks, the want does not give you the right.
posted by 724A at 3:47 PM on January 23, 2015


The study mentioned in this article suggests the most common reasons are "lack of time" and laziness. It also says about half of American drivers don't signal. Having lived in several cities across the U.S., I can confirm that this isn't only a problem in California. I live in the Bay Area, and signal all the time on city streets, including in obvious turn lanes, etc. I don't know what percentage of people signal here, but 50% doesn't sound that far off to me...I'm used to it, and just expect that I unfortunately can't predict what other cars are going to do.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:13 PM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Probably depends on where you are. I'm in the Sacramento area and I'd say about 50-60% of folks do signal. It's mostly...well, assholes on the freeway who like to completely go from one side of the freeway to the other who pull that sort of thing. I've pretty much developed psychic radar to figure out who intends to turn or not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:50 PM on January 23, 2015


I've lived in various parts of the US, and drivers in the SF Bay Area are, other than the speeding, better than anywhere else I've ever lived. A friend in Arkansas once informed me that he did not use his turn signals because then other drivers would cut him off. ??? This is bizarre to me.

(I love how NorCal drivers actually let you in when you use signals on the highway...)

I have no idea how this compares to anywhere else in the world, since I've never driven outside the US.
posted by wintersweet at 11:33 PM on January 23, 2015


It also says about half of American drivers don't signal.

Speaking as someone who's driven in something like 40 states of the U.S., this seems about right to me.

Why is that?

"Massive overconfidence in their driving skills" could a major element of this, IMO, judging from the behavior of the people I know who are lackadaisical (at best) about signals - they "know" they'll be able to slide over into the one-car-length-sized-gap in the correct lane when they have to, they "know" that they are such good drivers that they can prevent an accident if other drivers do something "dumb"; why bother signaling?
posted by soundguy99 at 2:17 AM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


In California the widespread slackness in using turn indicators is new behavior, within the past two decades. Probable causes are the lack of driver education, which used to be free in the schools but isn't anymore and the huge number of unlicensed drivers on the roads.
posted by rdr at 3:02 AM on January 24, 2015


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