No blinkers around Philly?
August 22, 2007 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Why do many suburban Philadelphians not use blinkers?

This is not to be inflammatory or anything but I go to school in the northwestern section of Philly. The majority of the people don't use their blinkers around here either to turn or switch lanes. If you're right behind them and they want to make a left turn with no left-turn lane, they won't use a blinker. It's about 10 non-blinkers for every blinker.

I'm from central Jersey by the shore and we always use our blinkers and get all of my friends get pissed off if someone doesn't use their blinker. I know most Jersey stereotypes are that we cut people off and don't use our blinkers and I would say only one-fifth is like that.

Is it not empathized during driver's ed?
posted by daninnj to Society & Culture (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Also, where I'm talking about is not urban but suburban (East Falls, Germantown, Norristown, etc).
posted by daninnj at 1:44 PM on August 22, 2007

More empathy during driver's ed would be rather useful, yes.

But I suspect what you're describing is the "people are crappy drivers where I live" phenomenon, of which not using a blinker is definitive for the complaint.
posted by artifarce at 1:49 PM on August 22, 2007

emphasize, D'oh!

Yeah, it might be that because it does piss me off, but I'm so surprised that most people don't use a common part of a car.
posted by daninnj at 1:54 PM on August 22, 2007

People don't use them because that portion of the traffic law is not enforced rigorously.

I'd say most areas of Texas are like Philly in blinker usage.
posted by Seamus at 2:02 PM on August 22, 2007

Well, I'm live in suburban Philadelphia .. a little further west ... and I might offer an explanantion. Although I'm close to things, I live essentially in the woods. There aren't even streetlights. Once you get off the main drags, the only traffic you have is that of the neighborhood. Generally, when you make a turn, there aren't any other cars around so most people just, well, make the turn sans signalling. The problem is, this becomes habit. So when those same folks get into a denser suburb with more cars around, they just resort to their bad habit. I don't condone it. I try to flip on my blinkers just to stay in the habit. But that might be what you're experiencing: people used to driving in lower-traffic-density neighborhoods failing to alter their habits when the traffic density is higher.
posted by lpsguy at 2:03 PM on August 22, 2007

I'm not from Philadelphia, but this is a common problem everywhere.

Here are several reasons that I can think of why people don't use their blinkers.

1) Laziness.
2) Lack of enforcement of the laws.
3) It's hard to actuate the lever for the turn signal when you are holding a cell phone.
4) To keep your advantage in traffic. Using a blinker will give away your next move.
5) If you are weaving in and out of traffic, using your blinker every time you change lanes will make it very obvious even from very far away (to cops) that you are driving like a jackass.
posted by Gojira at 2:09 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

You're not from there, right? That means that you're not part of the local gene pool. If you were, you'd have a telepathic sense about when other drivers are going to turn, which is why they have no need to use a turn-signal.

(Actually, I like lpsguy's explanation. But I've also found that city drivers have a certain aggression about them, maybe as a consequence of having to physically/psychologically accommodate so many other people so much of the time; perhaps failure to signal is a passive-aggressive thing. Still, I was shocked the first time I came to a complete stop at a stop sign and the city driver behind me honked hard and flipped me the bird.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:43 PM on August 22, 2007

I've lived in many suburban areas, from Rockland County, NY to Bergen County, NJ, to suburbs outside of Boston.

I have noticed a few rules with regards to suburban blinker usage:

1. You are not required to use a blinker if you are on the cell phone.
2. You are not required to use a blinker if it's OBVIOUS that you are going to be turning.
3. It's never required to use your blinker when changing lanes. Doing so is an admission of submissiveness.
4. If your car cost more than $40,000, any requirements of using the blinker are waived.
5. If you're in the middle of an argument with your spouse or children, you are only required to signal when turning left.

There may be other suburban turn-signal rules, but these are the ones I have catalogued.
posted by catfood at 2:55 PM on August 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

I'm not from Philadelphia, but this is a common problem everywhere.

Yes. I remember the question coming up around the water-cooler, only phrased as "Why don't people in California...?" and the native in our group mused rhetorically, "Isn't it illegal?"
posted by Rash at 3:07 PM on August 22, 2007

Every city has a contingent of drivers who think all the other drivers from that city, and that city only, are incompetent.

Drivers are the same, wherever you go. My advice - lighten up, 'ya old grump!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:32 PM on August 22, 2007

Blinker use is pretty sporadic here as well (south Tx) and, to be particularly clever, they often turn the blinker on a half second before or after starting a turn/lane change, like the blinker magically clears space for them.

A far more interesting question, to me, is why in some cities most people come to a complete dead stop at a yield sign, no matter how much traffic may or may not be coming.
posted by Jacen at 4:32 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've noticed the same thing in the Lehigh Valley. Whatever causes it seems to affect college students in short order, no matter where they come from.
posted by djb at 4:46 PM on August 22, 2007

Eh, drivers are bad everywhere, but I don't find them to be the same everywhere. Here in Chicagoland, people who don't use their turn signals are the exception, not the rule. Sure, non-blinkers exist, but I rarely notice them. (I am totally OCD about using my directionals. If I turn without using it, I feel like I missed a step. Sometimes I want to turn it on after I've turned, just so's it's done.)

In Pittsburgh, left turning drivers would always quickly dart out and turn in front of oncoming traffic, which is not typically done here. (Unless there's not much traffic and the first oncoming driver is nice and waves the left turner on).

What I'm saying is, different places do have their quirks. I'd guess that, for some reason, there are some people with lazy blinker fingers around Philly.
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:03 PM on August 22, 2007

A year or so I actually contemplated wasting my week on the green with this question:
It seems like a lot of people turn on their parking, rather than normal, lights on when it is dusk or not quite pitch black. Is there a compelling reason for not using your full beam? I have my lights turned on all the time, even during the day, so that I can be more easily seen by other cars.
Of course, then I worried that it would sound like me just snarking away. But really, I'm dying to know why people do this.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:51 PM on August 22, 2007

catfood has my suburban MD area to a T.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:04 PM on August 22, 2007

In Santa Fe we use bumper stickers. I used to think that the bumper stickers saying "Visualize turn signal use" were a plea for prayers to imagine everybody using them. Until I saw the car with a sticker under each taillight. Now I just imagine they are being used. No problem.
posted by pointilist at 6:05 PM on August 22, 2007

Driving customs vary greatly from one part of the country to another. Wherever you go, if it's not where you learned to drive, you'll find the driving annoying in some way. Someone should do a study of regionalized driving behaviors.

I grew up in Central NJ too (the defining characteristic of which is believing that there is such a region as 'central NJ') and I'd wager it's because the congestion is fierce enough all the time that using your signals is more vital than it is in other places. In NJ, people don't pay attention, follow close, and have to drive constantly. Using signals is important to survival.

I lived in Philly, too. The burbs are can lay in the streets on Sunday morning. It may be that people just don't think about who might be following them, never having gotten in the habit of following close enough themselves to get into trouble.

What drove me nuts in Philly is that if you hesitated even a tiny bit at a stop sign or headlight before proceeding, the person behind you would allow NO grace period before honking.

Here in Maine, the stereotypical bad-driving behavior is that we go the speed limit. Exactly the speed limit. To drive like a local in Maine is to drive maddeningly slowly.

Anyway, get used to getting irritated at drivers from other places, and leave two car lengths in front of you at all times.
posted by Miko at 6:11 PM on August 22, 2007

I'm dying to know why people do this.

I'm thinking they don't realize they haven't turned the whole lights on.

But even if they do, lights still increase visibility. That's why it's "lights on for safety" even during the daytime on many state highways.
posted by Miko at 6:12 PM on August 22, 2007

Maybe they just prefer signaling with their fist out the window.

All you people who are like "there are bad drivers everywhere" have never driven in Philly. The drivers in that town are, hands down, the worst I've ever seen.

They do it for the reason that people from Philadelphia do anything -- to be dicks. Miko got it right... it's just part of the general sense of aggression that's the rule of the road out there. Stop signs... they're optional. Red lights, merely an advisory opinion on whether to proceed.

It's kind of crazy to think about, but I don't think I've been honked at more than once or twice since moving to Phoenix four years ago. In Philly, it was a daily event.
posted by ph00dz at 6:30 PM on August 22, 2007

What drove me nuts in Philly is that if you hesitated even a tiny bit at a stop sign or headlight before proceeding, the person behind you would allow NO grace period before honking.

Funny you should mention that. What drives me nuts about Jersey plates in Philly is when they don't get their asses in gear snappy enough after the light turns green. Those fuckers are short, and you make me have to redline it to make the next green before it turns. You're killing the planet with my gas consumption.

But, seriously, most persons' driving sucks everywhere. I imagine that the laws are simply not enforced, and that they don't see the "need" when it's "obvious". Or, confirmation bias.
posted by Netzapper at 6:36 PM on August 22, 2007

Clearly, people in Philly are frugal. Regular use of indicators might cause them to wear out more quickly, reducing the resale value of the vehicle. (This also applies to damn Maryland drivers. Get the *#!& off my side of the beltway!)

P.S. Two car lengths is not enough unless a) you are driving a stretch limo, or b) you are traveling very, very, very slowly.
posted by anaelith at 7:01 PM on August 22, 2007

I'm from Philly. I don't have an explanation, except to say that most folks have no idea what a turn signal is for. That might explain why most people who do signal turn them on in the middle of a turn.

On the other hand, my sister's mother-in-law flat out refuses to use turn signals, with the claim "its none of their business where I'm going."

As for me, I failed my written driving test a couple of times, due to my not understanding what pedestrian crossings mean, or stopped school buses. Never seen anyone stop for them ever.
posted by chookibing at 7:42 PM on August 22, 2007

"I'm from central Jersey by the shore and we always use our blinkers..."

Dude, I live in Brick. Right by Point Pleasant. And I see people fail to use their blinkers all the freakin' time. Every day, on my way both two and from work, I see several people changing lanes or making turns without signaling -- and I only have a 5 mile commute.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:08 PM on August 22, 2007

Deathalicious driving with parking lights on is counter-intuitive if not amusing, but many newer cars have riding lights. The driver does not turn them on, they come on automatically and cannot be switched off.
posted by Cranberry at 10:02 PM on August 22, 2007

I lived in suburban Philadelphia for twelve years; have lived in CC and West Philadelphia the last four years.

FWIW, I feel, from personal observation only, that city drivers are actually better drivers than suburban drivers.

On the whole, I believe that it comes down to suburban drivers thinking and acting as if they are invincible, once behind the wheel.

I suspect this notion may not be limited to the Philadelphia area.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:14 PM on August 22, 2007

4) To keep your advantage in traffic. Using a blinker will give away your next move.

Yeah, it seems pretty common just about everywhere, just part of a dangerous but common attitude toward everyday driving as something like "desperate fight for survival", "life and death struggle for dominance" or at least "opportunity to crush and humiliate any who dare compete".

On the other hand - my grandfather, who learned to drive in his 40's, used to activate his turn signals for curves on the highway, among other unusual habits. Which sort of behavior I believe was actually more dangerous in its general novelty.
posted by scheptech at 10:27 PM on August 22, 2007

It's about 10 non-blinkers for every blinker.

Real data might be required.

When I moved a few years back to Southeast DC, I was appalled at the poor driving of its denizens. I wondered if there was some sort of latent racism that I harbored, along with a confirmation bias, that made it seem that African Americans were the worst drivers ever. So I drove with a clipboard for a month and collected data. For every driver that performed a notably courteous, dangerous, or illegal maneuver, I recorded the state in which the vehicle was licensed, the ethnicity of the driver, and the type of maneuver that caught my attention. After a month I crunched the data to only find that the police are bad drivers and that there were a lot of African American motorists in my area. That's all I came up with, this required me to question my biases and abandon my earlier conclusions.

You can collect real data on this turn signal question. If there is a problem that goes beyond your cursory perception of the situation, give your data to the police or local politicians and ask for proper enforcement of traffic safety laws.
posted by peeedro at 11:42 PM on August 22, 2007

Why do many suburban Philadelphians drivers did not learn to drive where I did not use blinkers drive the same way I do?

Fixed that for you, and implicitly answered the question as well. Regional differences abound in driving just as in anything else that isn't a chain restaurant -- and even some of those differ.
posted by davejay at 11:57 PM on August 22, 2007

ARgh! "Drivers WHO did not learn..." -- fixed that for me.
posted by davejay at 11:58 PM on August 22, 2007

And the "use blinkers" should be struck out...ah, to heck with it.

Why do many suburban Philadelphians not use blinkers am I, davejay, incapable of previewing?
posted by davejay at 11:59 PM on August 22, 2007

have you been to LA? dude...

bus drivers there honk before the light turns green to make sure all the drivers in front are alert and have looked up from their crackberries.

turn signals? not using them at all is annoying and dangerous, but what really ticks me off is when people move into a turn lane before signalling. those driver aren't too lazy to signal, just too stupid to know when. christ. i've noted this behaviour everywhere.

i, on the other hand, am a perfect driver.
posted by klanawa at 12:20 AM on August 23, 2007

As has been said before, drivers everywhere have their quirks, but I think some can indeed be associated with certain regions (even if multiple regions share them). I definitely noticed the lack of blinker usage when I lived in Philly/the surrounding area. I found that if I signaled to change lanes, people who were previously far enough behind me would accelerate, often not allowing me into their lane. So that's why I figured people didn't use 'em. I also had to learn to go through almost-red/end of the yellow lights, which wouldn't have flown in NY, where I learned to drive. But Philadelphians also drive slower than New Yorkers (except on 95, where everyone is CRAZY). In the end I think it depends on which traffic laws are enforced, and hence what your parents taught you about driving in your area, and what you see other drivers doing...
posted by CiaoMela at 6:55 AM on August 23, 2007

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