Almost Half of American Drivers Don’t Bother Using Their Turn Signals

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CC BY 2.0. I know, they are brake lights not turn signals, but I couldn't find a photo/ Lloyd Alter

And then they yell at cyclists for not following the rules.

Car drivers have it so easy. When I want to signal a turn on my bike (which I always do) I have to take a hand off the handlebars, causing a real loss of control, raise my arm and point, which is changing my centre of balance. It requires some skill and experience.

The drivers of cars, on the other hand, just have to flick a lever. They can then ignore it, because it pops back on its own. I can’t imagine why they don’t always do it as a matter of course. Yet often, when I am riding my bike, drivers will cut right in front of me to turn, and I don’t know it’s coming because they don’t use their turn signal. When I drive, it seems most people don’t signal before changing lanes.

In fact, according to Norman Mayersohn in the New York Times, almost half of drivers don’t bother to signal, and it contributed to 542 crashes last year. He writes:

So what’s the problem here? Why don’t many drivers take this simple safety precaution? When asked about their bad habits in a national study, their explanations seemed confounding. The study by Response Insurance of Meriden, Conn., found that 42 percent of drivers claimed they didn’t have enough time to signal before turning. Nearly a quarter of drivers blamed laziness, while 17 percent said they skipped signaling because they were apt to forget to cancel the blinkers. Worth noting: Men admitted that they were more likely, by 62 percent to 53 percent, to change lanes without signaling.

Mayersohn believes that this raises questions about drivers of regular cars interacting with self-driving cars.

Would autonomous vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence and hyper-speed computers be able to anticipate the moves of those drivers? How will an autonomous car following all of the rules interact with cars that follow only some?

And I wondered, why are we talking about interactions with imaginary AVs when we have more and more people riding bikes every day? Drivers complain all the time that people on bikes don’t follow the rules, while almost half of drivers don’t use their turn signals.

Mayersohn says, “Failure to signal is an inconsiderate act that makes the roads less safe, causing panic braking, sudden swerves and fender-benders or worse.” When they interact with a person on a bike, the “worse” is probably serious injury or death.

But I am still shaking my head over the fact that almost half of drivers regularly break a law that has a big fine and two demerit points. It is serious stuff. The next time a driver says “Cyclists don’t follow the rules!” that were designed for cars, I will point out how many drivers don’t follow the rules that were designed for cars and that actually make sense for cars. But then yelling at cyclists was never about the rules.