Tuesday, June 22, 2010

turn signal soap box

I love driving. Playing on the piano (albeit not well) and driving are my two greatest sources of stress release. Usually. Obviously, the best driving is on low-traffic, straight, scenic roads with minimal cop supervision. There's a strip of 29N between Lynchburg and Charlottesville in Virginia that very briefly does a slight up-and-down-and-up-and-down under a canopy of trees. It's my favorite part of any drive on 29N. But those conditions are not always, or rather are rarely, available, and I understand that. I also understand that every driver thinks they're a good driver and everyone else is nuts. That's standard. So, the following rant is my perspective on how the turn signal should be used, though I'm open to other thoughts and suggestions.

The basics. Turn signals are standard on every vehicle. It's not like they are a special feature of mini-vans and Mercury's - every vehicle has one - two actually, left and right. And, you learn how to use them in drivers education. At the very least, you learn when you'd like everyone else on the road to use them. Making a right turn, indicate to others with a right flasher (this is not someone who knows how to expose themselves nude in the correct fashion). Making a left turn, indicate with a left flasher (not to be confused with a liberal who  enjoys arrest for indecent exposure). Pretty simple.

Turn signals are not just useful for the people behind your car - they're indicators for everyone around you. Everyone is guilty, myself included, of not always using the blinker, so here are some guidelines to consider:

1.) Always use your turn signal when making a turn - always - no exceptions - even if you're in a turn lane, even if you're merging off of the highway in an "exit only" lane. This lets people know that you are aware of what you are doing and are not going to be one of the nuts to swerve violently out of the "exit only" lane into traffic because the bright yellow sign and exit snuck up on you. It says "I recognize that I am in an 'exit only' lane and intend to use the exit."

2.) TURN SIGNAL FIRST - THEN BRAKE! I had the pleasure of being behind a car that came to a complete stop in the middle of a busy two-way road, on a semi-blind corner, waited for traffic to go by and in the middle of the left turn, put on their turn signal. THAT HELPS NO ONE! If you're braking for geese crossing (which, actually, if they didn't have the potential to cause significant damage to car grills, I could be convinced to suggest you just run into 'em for population control), then it's appropriate to brake. If the car in front of you slows, it's appropriate to brake. I'm not suggesting you not use the brake, I'm suggesting you think far enough ahead to realize that you'll be making a turn shortly and would like to let the people behind you in on that little tidbit so they understand that your braking is not temporary or for a hidden road hazard. TURN SIGNAL FIRST - THEN BRAKE! It says, "I intend to make a turn which therefore necessitates that I slow down considerably and gradually; this is not a brake-tapping exercise."

3.) Put your turn signal on if you want to change lanes. Period. There are enough things to pay attention to on the road without needing to worry about reading someone's mind. If you want to turn or merge or cut someone off, have the courtesy to give them a head's up (and a cheery wave if need be - which is a completely different rant, and, I suspect, region-specific). This one says, "I would like to change my vehicle's position on the road, and this is how it could affect your current position."

4.) This is of course all predicated on the fact that you turn off your turn signal after using it. That is actually my youngest sister's rant though. So, for her, turn off your turn signal so we're not left guessing when you might turn and where. It's a useful device but needs to have distinct "on/off" times to be effective.

That's it. Four suggestions to help everyone better communicate on the road. Whereas many of a car's functions are to provide for your safety, the turn signal, when used correctly, provides for everyone's safety. Just saying.

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