Giving Signals & When Not to Give Them

Don L. Gates

Giving Signals

When learning to drive, most of us are taught about giving signals for every stop and turn. But is it really necessary, and is there any reason to not give signals if they don’t help anyone?

We’re all familiar with the ‘mirror signal manoeuvre’ routine, but the hint is in the word ‘routine’. It is something many drivers do automatically with little thought going into the process.

This is where the advanced driver differs from the everyday motorist. Instead of simply checking the mirrors and signalling before pulling in, an advanced driver asks a few questions:

  • Is there anyone behind me?
  • How close are they and how much warning do they need (if any)?
  • Is there anyone else who may benefit from a signal? (Pedestrians waiting to cross the road or vehicles at side roads for instance).
  • Do I actually need to signal?

The difference is, the driver is actively thinking about the surrounding environment. This increases observation and awareness and may reveal things that another driver takes no notice of.

Signalling at Junctions

A good example of this is when turning right at traffic lights. Imagine you are in a marked right turn only lane. Drivers behind you should already be aware and need no warning. If a filter light is inNo signal at lights operation then you probably don’t need to signal. However, this is where your observation widens. Are there any pedestrians about to cross the road you are entering? If the filter goes off before you complete the turn, do you need to warn any oncoming drivers with a signal? You may need to signal as you set off if it will help others.

Turning into a side road or emerging from one, the same rules apply. If no-one is going to be affected by what you do, then giving signals serves no purpose. However you must always be aware in case the situation changes, and put the signal on if it will help someone.

Overtaking

Do you need to signal when overtaking? If you have just arrived behind the vehicle you are about to pass, then maybe not. They should be aware of your approach if they are using mirrors properly. If the driver isn’t using mirrors then they wouldn’t see the signal anyway. If you have had to follow for a while however, the situation changes; it’s now more about whether someone is behind you. Is there a risk that they may want to pass you?

Signals at Night

When so many drivers sit with their foot on the brake, the result is unnecessary dazzle for the driver waiting behind. Giving a needless signal only adds to this. If you are waiting to turn right into a side road with drivers in front and behind signalling; turn yours off. You can put it back on again if necessary when you become the lead vehicle.

You can see that there are quite a few things to consider. In all these situations it would be much easier just to put a signal on. But that means you are carrying out a routine and not thinking about what you are doing. A driver who isn’t thinking isn’t driving as well as they should be. This is what makes the difference between an advanced driver and an average one.

Giving Signals – Flashing Headlights

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