The Turn Signal

Car makers are coming up with new options all the time — built-in mp3 players with voice recognition, camera systems that let a car park itself, in-dash microwave ovens — but they’ve managed to keep some room in there for a handy little feature known as the turn signal.

Unfortunately, some drivers seem to have forgotten just how helpful this little baby can be. Perhaps it’s time for a little Turn Signal 101 (American Edition).

Lesson 1: Where Is the Turn Signal?

Generally, the turn signal is a lever (stick-thingy) on the left side of the steering wheel. It might do double duty as the windshield wiper or cruise control stick-thingy, but it’s still a turn signal. If you can’t find the turn signal, don’t drive.

Lesson 2: How Does the Turn Signal Work?

The lever moves up and down like a super-long light switch. Down for a left turn, Up for a right. A flashing arrow on the dashboard shows you when it’s on. Funny enough that down/left, up/right thing lines up with how the steering wheel moves during a turn. Spooky.

Lesson 3: How Does the Turn Signal Stop?

Now this gets a little tricky. The turn signal usually turns off when you finish a turn. Sometimes it does not. If there’s a little clicky-clicky sound in the car, and the little arrow is flashing on your dashboard, your turn signal is still on. Don’t wait for the next turn- you are allowed (and expected) to turn it off manually. If you do not, you deserve the scorn of nearby drivers.

Congratulations! You now know how to physically use a turn signal. Let’s move on to where it gets interesting…

Lesson 4: Why Does My Car Have a Turn Signal?

Believe it or not, other drivers cannot hear you talking to them from inside your car. They cannot read your mind, and they do not magically know your route, even if you have a super-fancy GPS. Luckily, the turn signal comes to the rescue by giving you a way to show other drivers what you plan to do.

Lesson 5: How Does it Help to Signal While I’m Turning?

It doesn’t. The turn signal is there to show what you are going to do, not what you are already doing. If you wait and take a half-ass stab at flipping on the turn signal while you are already in the process of making a turn, you are an idiot. You should not be driving a car.

Lesson 6: Okay, When Do I Use the Turn Signal?

There are actual laws about that. If you don’t plan to learn the rules, at least use common sense. The idea is to show the cars around you what you plan to do. In a city setting, signal about half a block before your turn. It doesn’t help anyone to put your turn signal on two or more blocks before your turn. Is the driver behind you supposed to guess when you’re actually going to get around to turning?

Lesson 7: What About Changing Lanes?

Yep, that’s another time to use a turn signal. You might know what you are doing, the drivers around you do not. Use the turn signal to show when you are planning to change lanes. Remember, it’s about giving notice so other drivers have a chance to make room for you. Flip on your turn signal, check to be sure the lane is clear, switch lanes, and then turn off the turn signal — it often stays on after switching lanes, which confuses other drivers and makes you look like an idiot.

Lesson 8: So, What Do I Do When Someone Else Signals?

I’ll give you a hint: you are NOT being challenged to a fight. When someone puts on their turn signal, either slow down to let them turn or change lanes! Someone’s turn signal on a crowded highway is NOT your cue to laugh maniacally and gun it so they can’t move in front of you. Your manhood (driverhood?) is not at stake if you let someone into the lane ahead of you. You don’t own the road. Get over it.

2 thoughts on “The Turn Signal”

  1. Since I have already determined that 90% of the drivers on the road are idiots, the turn signal doesn't offer much solace in identifying them as such. I do think it is funny that a turn signal insights primal behavior akin to protecting ones food, wife or child.

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