The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

May 3, 2014

Turn, turn, turn: Don’t get your signals crossed

ENID, Okla. — Consider the lowly human appendix.

Every person has one, but it apparently doesn’t do anything, save cause occasional painful episodes.

The same can be said of turn signals. Every vehicle comes equipped with turn signals, but many don’t do anything, save cause occasional painful episodes.

Turn signals are supposed to be used to alert other drivers that you are turning one way or another, or changing from one lane to the other.

Sadly, many turn signals are as neglected as the average appendix.

A survey conducted by Response Insurance company found that 57 percent of American drivers admit to not using their turn signals when they change lanes.

The reasons those responding gave ranged from not having enough time (42 percent), to the fact not signaling adds excitement to driving (7 percent). Twenty-three percent, obviously the most honest among those surveyed, admitted to being too lazy to use their turn signals.

Not surprisingly, men were found to be more likely to ignore their turn signals than women (62 percent to 53 percent), and younger drivers eschew signals more often than older ones (71 percent to 42 percent).

The company also has identified different types of drivers when it comes to ignoring turn signals — impulsive, lazy, forgetful, swervers, ostriches, followers and daredevils. That list reads like the Seven Dwarfs of bad driving.

Those are not the names I tend to use to describe them. Those sobriquets are far earthier and hardly suited for inclusion in a family publication.

Imagine this scenario: You are driving down the road. All of a sudden the car in front of you slows, dramatically, then turns left, without signaling. Are his turn signals broken? Do they not come on that particular model? Is he in the witness protection program and simply trying to keep his route a secret? Does he not possess the required strength and manual dexterity to operate the lever? Did he just decide to turn at the last second?

Turn signals are not some new-fangled automotive invention. The first electric light turn signal appeared on the 1938 Buick. Two years later, Buick added the self-canceling mechanism that would automatically shut off the signal after the turn was completed. Engineers still haven’t figured out a way to keep more mature drivers from leaving their signals flashing for miles after they make a lane change, then forget to switch them off.

Failure to use turn signals is not only annoying, but can be hazardous, as well. I have been involved in any number of near-misses with signal slackers. But I am apparently one of the lucky ones.

A report by the Society of Automotive Engineers shows that drivers ignore their turn signals some 750 billion times per year, causing as many as two million accidents annually.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says distracted driving causes 950,000 crashes per year, meaning not signaling is more than twice as dangerous as driving while texting, talking on a cell phone or painting one’s toenails while behind the wheel.

I don’t understand the American driver’s general disdain for turn signals. Many people seem to regard their use with the same affection they reserve for visits to the dentist. Both are equally beneficial but there is no discomfort involved in using your turn signals, no drilling, no rinsing and spitting, and you won’t get a bill in the mail a few days later.

If you have somehow forgotten how to use your turn signals, allow me to offer a brief tutorial on the subject.

First, locate the turn signal lever. It’s that one on the left side of your steering column. No, your other left. The side opposite your check-writing hand. Oh, you only use debit cards? So use your pork-rind eating hand. Oh you do? Both hands? Really? Let’s try again. OK, those are your windshield wipers. Wrong lever. It’s that one, there. Yes, the one you thought was a knee scratcher or merely a convenient place to hang your extra set of keys, an air freshener or a trash sack.

Next, to signal a left turn, pull the lever down. Toward your feet. There you go. Now, for a right turn, pull it up. Right up, left down.

By the way, that also happens to be the new campaign slogan for the Tea Party.

Now, when you signal, you will hear a clicking sound, accompanied by the flashing of a directional arrow someone on your dashboard. Do not panic, this is perfectly normal.

Repeat this process anytime you make a turn or change lanes. Yes, even when there are no other cars around. God will know. Besides, you might as well stay in practice.

Using your turn signal is the law. It also is polite. Oh, and it is good for keeping blood pressure down. Not yours, mine.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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