Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sunday Driving: Turn Signals.

Sunday Driving: The world(my select portions of it, at least) is filled with bad, thoughtless drivers. Maybe you're one of them. If not, you might be sleeping with one. Bad drivers are everywhere, but we can do something about it. Well, I can, anyways. These articles will be filled with rants about bad driving and contain graphic illustrations of how proper driving should be conducted.

Turn signals, people. Turn signals.

Turn: verb. [trans.] To move (something) so that it is in a different position in relation to its surroundings or its previous position.

Signal: noun. A gesture, action, or sound that is used to convey information or instructions, typically by prearrangement between the parties concerned.

A car cuts across three lanes in front of me, no matter that he's going 70 miles per hour or that I'm going 75. Rain, snow, ice all pale to the necessity that this goofy turkey buzzard get in the left lane before I pass him on the left. Why? Is he going to take the exchange on the left that's coming up? Is he drunk? Raging? Too busy, with one hand soul-pounding his steering wheel to a banging Tom Petty song to observe proper driving etiquette? I'm left wondering, because there's no indicator for him to let me know what the heck his frakkin' intentions are.

Oh wait, there is.

The turn signal. A convenient set of indicators visible from any pertinent side of a car to let other motorists know what your driving intentions are. Now, I understand that the above definitions of the words turn and signal might be elusive to the average person, and hence forming them into a compound concept might be beyond the pale of the typical vehicular enthusiast. No, this is clearly a very difficult concept and requires detailed exegesis, which I--in my vast patience and generosity--will provide, free of charge.

First and foremost, a signal ought to be used. This is a common oversight amongst many road-bound retards, which leads me to believe that it has become the social outcast of car features. Climate control? Check. Radio? Check. GPS? Never lost again, baby. Turn signal? Too busy adjusting my heated seat and trying to remember which track is 'Bohemian Rhapsody', while trying to type in my destination into the GPS. You know how it is, bro.

"this is clearly a very difficult concept"

Secondly, a turn signal should be used in advance of the maneuver it is signaling. I know, a tidal wave of realization might threaten to bowl you over. But like the nerd, the turn signal is often not invoked when its area of speciality is used, and is ignored whenever possible. When it is used, it's name-dropped after the fact as a token reference-- "Oh did I just do a turn? There you go, signaled. Happy?" The proper use of a turn signal, however, should give other people time to notice it, decide what you're likely to do, and give them time to accommodate you. If you allow one or two flashes of the signal for each of these considerations, the signal ought to have a chance to click on and off at least four times.

Finally, a turn signal should be used whenever you're about to unexpectedly change relative position. Relative position means change of lane as well as change of course. And since you are supposed to use the signal to give other drivers a chance to predict your change of course, it ought to come first. It does other drivers no good whatsoever if you slow down to a halt in your lane only to put on your signal as you reach your desired side-street. In this way, turn signals are like claiming farts--the sooner they are claimed, the sooner you warn your loved ones, the more likely they can give you your space and escape unscathed.

So let me clear the air: signals don't mean diddly if they're used inconsistently. It doesn't do any good if you always use your turn signal when turning at an intersection but fail to do so when you're whipping around a soccer mom who has the audacity to slow down in front of you. Use your signal. Use it first. And use it before you do something unexpected.


  1. Just be glad some genius decided a long time ago to pair the brake lights directly to the pedal. Maybe we should do the same with the steering wheel, adding a time delay to the steering. First you turn the wheel (activating the signal), then a few seconds later, the car responds.

    I think my least favorite turn signal fail is when an individual has the right of way over me, and I honor it, expecting our paths to cross. Then he makes an unsuspected turn to reveal he never intended to cross my path. Wish I'd known, wouldn't have stopped.

  2. Oh wait, I lied. Least preferred fail is when I whizz by a queue of cars that are in the right lane at a light just turning green. I'm lookin' all hip on my hipster single-speed road machine, tearing up that 3 ft bike lane, and as I pass all the tools in their tool-boxes-on-wheels, I check to see which of them is planning to turn right, so I can be sure not to pass him at that moment. Inevitably I end up pulling a hockey-esque (yeah, how's that for juxtapo) stop when the jaghole with his knobby-wheeled pick-up decides to go right after all.
    A good friend of mine even performed a 50-50 butt-slide across a pizza delivery car's hood in this situation.