Reviving the lost art of signaling

It is not only courtesy, but also the law, that necessitates proper signalling when driving a vehicle.

Even if a lane is designated as right-or left-turn only, it is still the law that a driver must signal the intention to turn. All turns require a signal approximately 30 metres from the corner. It is a good idea to delay a signal, if it could be misinterpreted, such as at a turn where a shopping centre or gas station entrance or exit immediately precedes the intersection.

Lane changes must be preceded by a proper signal. It is law in most provinces and states that each lane change on a freeway must be signalled individually.

Every signal should be accompanied by a shoulder check on the side that is being signalled. Every lateral move should be indicated by a right or left signal. This is elementary driving protocol.

So why do so many drivers forget to signal? Some are just plain impolite. But that only explains the tendency in a very small percentage of vehicle operators.

Most drivers who do not signal properly are distracted, perhaps looking for a house number or a street sign. Communication with other drivers, pedestrians, motorcycles and cyclists, not to mention scooters and skateboarders, is the only efficient way for drivers to tell others what they are about to do.

A driver should wait at least three to four cycles of the signal flash to insure that all others have seen and processed the intention of the signalling driver. Signalling too early or late is frustrating for other road and sidewalk users.

It is best to first signal the intention to change lanes in urban areas and then do a shoulder check. This will allow others to let you enter the traffic flow.

When changing lanes on the highway or freeway, it is best to look at the blind spot over the appropriate shoulder before the lane change. This will reduce the surprise factor for any other driver who is caught in the blind spot of a driver intending to change lanes. Drivers are usually helpful when given ample time to react to an intention to turn, change lanes, or enter or leave the traffic system.

Signal even in parking lots, driveways and any other areas unregulated by the Highway Traffic Act. This will become second nature and serve all drivers well throughout their driving careers.

Many drivers have a tendency to leave the signal light on long after a turn or lane change has been made. Hearing impairment is the most common reason for this mistake. Always glance at the dash for reassurance that a signal has been cancelled if you suffer from a loss of hearing.

It is frustrating to follow a driver who has had the signal on for the last several minutes or longer. This mistake gives the wrong idea of an impending turn and could cause a crash.

If you are the first driver in a line of vehicles making a left turn at an intersection, signal your intention early. No one wants to get stuck behind a left-turner when the right lane is available.

It is a good idea to use hand signals in confined spaces, at low speeds. This practice adds a personal touch to directions.

Use a hand signal when leaving a parallel parking space and when stopping at an unmarked crosswalk. You will draw greater attention to yourself and your actions. A hand signal is immeasurably positive when properly used.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Wallace Driving School in Victoria.

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