Turn Signals are not Always a Polite Request

Turn SignalEvery now and again I end up scratching my head and wondering why I didn't think of it that way. This is one of those times and it has to do with turn signals. Ask most drivers what they mean and the response will probably be that a turn signal is a request to change direction or move from lane to lane. That isn't necessarily so.

In some circumstances a turn signal may be an indication from the driver that something beyond their control has happened and they will be moving because there is no other option. If you are the dominant driver and insist upon your right of way it may be the worst thing that you could do in the situation. Giving way could prevent a serious situation from becoming worse or avoid creating a new situation that could have a negative impact on you.

I was trained in the Smith System of driving. Two of the key concepts in this system are Aim High in Steering and Get the Big Picture. In other words, see, evaluate and act on distant information as well as avoid mistakes by having a complete awareness of what is going on around you.

The commercial vehicle driver I was discussing this with observed that it is rarely more important to live in the moment than when one is driving. If you have complete situational awareness because you are paying the required attention to the driving task you would realize that giving up your dominant position made good sense. Infringing on your right of way is not always a challenge to be met with an aggressive reaction.

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Signalling while driving

As a mature driver I am constantly doing my best to maintain good driving skills - I have been driving for over fifty years.  One of my favorite things to complain about is other drivers inability to understand when to use your turn signals.  I have taken the position that I will signal everywhere I go well in advance of an intended turn - to me that means parking lots, roadways - in short everywhere.   As an ardent "walker" throughout my community I pay attention to vehicles within my scope of vision and always appreciate when a driver will signal their intentions to move their vehicles.  Pedestrians deserve to know your intentions as well! Not just other vehicles...

Signal well in advance...

Signal everywhere...

Signal first then start to brake for corners...

Signal for pedestrians always...

Check to see all your running lights are funtioning.  

The Video is well worth watching - it is informative and educational for all of us...

Turn signals

Yes, a very good video.
Something I learned many years ago on my advanced driving courses was that you needn't give a signal if there is no one around to benefit from it.
Whoa, hold on I hear you say, you should always signal; think about it though, if you are aware enough that you are able to make a decision that there is no one around who will benefit from you giving a signal, then you are aware of what is in front of you, to the side of you, behind you, on the sidewalks (if they exist), all around you, and that was what was really being taught. It's easy to just signal every time you want to make a change of direction but are you really aware of what is around you?
Drive safe.


I always signal on the premise that if I have made a mistake at least then those around me get a head's up on what is coming.

And I signal 99.5% of the

And I signal 99.5% of the time, usually only not signalling when I am on a completely empty road in the middle of nowhere with no houses or other hidden driveways around for the same reason that I still make mistakes. Thinking though of "do I need to signal" helps to make sure that I am very aware of what is going on all around me.

Communication skills

When it comes to legalities, and whether or not a signal is required, it's important to differentiate between turns and lane changes.

It's my guess that when Section 170 of the Motor Vehicle Act was originally written, many cars didn't have mechanical or electronic signals, or power steering, or automatic transmissions; so expecting some farmer in the middle of nowhere to increase his task load prior to turning off the highway into his farm track, by sticking his hand and arm out the window (no doubt while downshifting and hauling on the wheel) would be an unreasonable expectation if the only creatures around to notice were a couple of crows sitting on the fence.  Hence the wording 'If traffic may be affected by turning a vehicle ... ' etc.

In the modern urban driving environment, some other road user - pedestrian, cyclist, driver, whatever - is more than likely to be affected, making the signal mandatory; and it must be given sufficiently in advance of the maneuver to be effective (so these jerks who sit at a red light and only turn on the signal when it goes green are driving illegally, as well as discourteously).

But by the time that traffic engineers had started creating traffic lanes, automobile manufacturers were providing vehicles with some type of easy-to-use signalling device.  So Section 151 (Driving on laned roadway) Part C is unequivocal; the driver must signal beforehand, regardless of conditions.  And Part A demands that they only execute a lane change if it can be done safely and without affecting other traffic ... but you have to be a fool if you're the 'other guy' and you don't try to accommodate them, I reckon.

When it comes to policing all of this, I have to say I'm puzzled.  Driver behaviours such as failing to signal, following to closely, or hogging the left lane, are frequently cited as major annoyances, even triggering road rage amongst other drivers.  And yet, in more than 40 years behind the wheel, I have yet to see any cop, anywhere, any time, ticketing for any of these illegal and dangerous behaviours.  

And if the police are not part of the solution, is it possible that in fact they are part of the problem? blush

Just Because You Haven't Seen it....

....doesn't mean that it isn't being done. I will say that it seems to be done less often than it should though.

My personal preference was to grab the driver glued to the back bumper of the vehicle doing the speed limit in the fast lane. The speed limit driver was only doing one thing wrong and the other driver two so they won the prize. They were often very vocal about it too. Why they thought I should consider their desire to exceed the speed limit was more important I'm not too sure.

It didn't help that we had a traffic court JP that told me straight out that she would never convict a driver doing the speed limit for failing to keep right.

Sometimes doing traffic enforcement is not as easy as one might think it would be.

Driving in laned traffic, revisited ...

Thanks for the input, there is of course always another point of view to consider.  From interest, is there a database anywhere that can be accessed to discover just what tickets are being handed out by the various police forces around the province?

With regard to your traffic court JP, it's noteworthy that back around 1998 (give or take a year) Section 151 (Driving in laned traffic) was quietly amended with the addition of Part (g) 'If a traffic control device directs slow moving traffic to use a designated lane, must when driving slowly drive in that lane only'.

In other words, if there is a sign beside the highway that says 'Slower Traffic Keep Right', and traffic is piling up behind you because you're driving too slowly in the left lane, then you are obligated by law to move over - regardless of whether you're obeying the speed limit.

Being as that self-centred behaviour is not only illegal, but also unsafe as it causes traffic to bunch up (the very opposite of Smith System space cushion driving), one can only wonder if the Highway Patrol have been made aware of it (he asked, innocently). wink

Not moving over, Smith System

>Being as that self-centred behaviour is not only illegal, but also unsafe as it causes traffic to bunch up (the very opposite of Smith System space cushion driving)

Are not the drivers piling up behind the person sticking close to or at the speed limit also doing the very opposite of the Smith System? If they were following the Smith System, the situation wouldn't arise in the first place. :)

That's what I'm saying ...

... but maybe not expressing it very well!

Most drivers are ignorant of the whole concept of Space Cushion driving.  Stand on a freeway overpass some time, and observe traffic for a little while.  It will become apparent that mostly, drivers tend to travel in packs and bunches, striving to get ahead; they may have heard of the 2-second rule, but they don't apply it, and the whole notion of trying to avoid driving in another's blind spot, or adjacent to a vehicle in the other lane, is a foreign concept.

I said most drivers.  The ones you hardly notice are the individuals who are effectively applying Smith System principles; they pay scant attention to the speed limit (because it's largely irrelevant) but instead, they opt to move at the speed of the general flow, but positioning themselves between the bunches - essentially alone on the freeway, even when there is a lot of traffic using it.  An accident cannot take place unless two objects try to occupy the same space at the same time.  Smith System / Space Cushion drivers don't have accidents (I prefer the word collision myself) and only rarely (like once in five or ten years) need to brake hard.

We could wish for every driver to be Smith System trained; it's an intense 40-hour course, and I believe that all RCMP officers, as well as Greyhound Bus drivers, are provided with it.  But this isn't going to happen.

However, given the fact that if slower drivers did habitually try to keep right - a concept that's effectively applied and practiced in most european countries - then every road user would have more space around them, more of the time.  And the natural consequence would be fewer collisions.

They did a study once (whoever 'they' are) that determined how collisions could be reduced by an estimated 90%.  All that would be needed would be to give every driver the same thing.  What's that thing?




Yes, that's right.  If each driver had that one precious thing - that extra second - in which to think and react, collisions would be rare as hen's teeth.  

But instead, they fill the spaces, they fail to maintain and apply observation and visibility, and the consequence is that they run ... out ... of ... TIME! surprise


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