One of the most common — and most dangerous — lazy driving habits is neglecting to use turn indicators consistently.
In fact, a 2012 study by the Society of Automotive Engineers concluded that turn signal neglect leads to as many as 2 million crashes annually in the U.S. The neglect rate was 48% for lane changing and 25% for making turns, researchers found.
In some cities today, turn signal neglect rates are undoubtedly higher than that. (To see what happened when a New York-based video blogger tallied signal neglect at an intersection near his home in Queens, click on the photo or link below the headline.)
When you don’t bother signaling, other motorists and pedestrians are left to guess what your intentions are — whether you’re changing lanes, turning right or left, merging into traffic or preparing to park in a space.
The Iowa Department of Transportation offers the following advice:
- Get into the habit of signaling every time you change direction. Signal even when you don’t see anyone else around. It’s easy to miss someone who needs to know what you’re doing.
- Signal as early as you can. Try and signal at least three seconds before you make your move. Signal at least 100 feet before a turn if the speed limit is 45 mph or less. If the speed limit is faster than 45 mph, signal at least 300 feet before you turn.
- Be careful that you don’t signal too early. If there are streets, driveways or entrances between you and where you want to turn, wait until you have passed them to signal.
- If another vehicle is about to enter the street between you and where you plan to turn, wait until you’ve passed it to signal your turn. If you signal earlier, the other driver may think you plan to turn where that driver is and he or she might pull into your path.
- After you’ve made a turn or lane change, make sure your turn signal is off. After short turns, the signal may not turn off by itself. Turn it off if it hasn’t canceled by itself. If you don’t, other drivers might think you plan to turn again.