The Lost Art of Driving: Signaling

Any time you have a large number of people driving on the same road, you start to notice certain patterns of stupidity, carelessness, or perhaps ignorance.

Almost every day I ask myself: “Do these people not know how to drive, or do they choose to ignore the rules?”

For some reason I still have some sort of faith in humanity, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the former, rather than the latter.

Plus, the first problem can be solved through education, whereas the second requires a change in attitude, which is much harder to accomplish.

Without further a-do, here is the first in a series of posts with the goal of education the general public on the subtle intricacies of driving.

For my first topic: Signaling.


Here are the instances when you should signal, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Handbook:

ALWAYS SIGNAL when you are going to:

  1. Change Lanes.
  2. Make a turn.
  3. Pull away from a parking space which is parallel to a curb.
  4. Slow down or stop.

Of course, number 4 should be automatic unless your brake lights aren’t working, in which case you probably shouldn’t be driving that vehicle in the first place.

If you must drive without proper working lights, here are the official hand signals which you can use:


Another common, though unofficial hand signal, is much more versatile:


The use of this signal, while sometimes cathartic, will probably just anger the other driver and cause them to drive even more recklessly. And reckless driving leads to wreck-full driving.

Also, use of this signal significantly increases your chances of being perceived as an asshole yourself. Sorry, that’s just the way it works.

Turn-signaling basics

Anyway, back to to topic of signaling. Turn-signaling, specifically.

Signal before you turn

I know all these rules are complicated, but there are some subtleties that need not be overlooked. Here are a few things to keep in mind when signaling a turn:

In other words, start signaling your turn before you start turning. I know it’s complicated, but it really is important to do things in this order.

Preferably (and by law, but who cares about those, right?) you want to start signaling 100 feet before you turn or change lanes. It’s hard to think that far ahead for some people, so I’ll be happy if you just signal for at least 2 seconds or so before you turn.

Stop signaling once you are done turning

Turn off your signal after you are done turning or lane-changing, dammit! Your signals are one of the few ways I can make predictions about changes in my speed or direction I might need to make, and if you leave your signal on, it’s like lying to me.

You don’t want to lie to me, do you? What if lying to me means you might get crashed into. How does it sound then?


There are some cases where it is okay to not signal before turning or changing lanes, but there are only a couple.

Situations in which it is acceptable to turn or change lanes without signaling:

  1. The person in front of you slams on their brakes suddenly and you have to swerve to avoid hitting them.
  2. Something breaks on your car (flat tire, broken windshield, etc…) and you need to pull to the side of the road suddenly.

That’s about it. There are really no other good reasons. In fact, there are lots of really bad reasons.

Situations in which it is not acceptable to turn or change lanes without signaling:

  1. You only have one free hand (cell phone, food, amputation, etc…).

NO! Get a hands-free phone kit, don’t eat while driving, or have a thumb-controlled turn signal switch installed. Worst case scenario, stop your car for while and do whatever it is you need to do, then get back on the road.

  1. Your turn signals don’t work.

Get them fixed! Use hand signals as described above (not the fourth one, though, just the first three).

  1. You didn’t notice the place you were supposed to turn until it was too late.

If you don’t have time to signal even a little bit, then you are probably shouldn’t be turning either. Slamming on your brakes and suddenly turning is a good way to increase your chances of collision. Just calm down and take the next possible turn or turn around and try again. Missing a turn isn’t so harmful that it’s worth risking your life or the lives of others on.

Have a good excuse for not signalling? I doubt it. Have an experience or supporting comment to share? Either way, leave a comment and let me know.
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