The proper use of turn signals gives other drivers on the road – and in parking lots - time to react to your moves. But a surprising number of drivers have a cavalier attitude about the use of turn indicators, employing them inconsistently and often late.

According to a report issued in April, 2012, by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), turn signal neglect causes as many as 2 million crashes per year in the U.S. The organization studied a total of 12 turning and lane-changing vehicles, and found that the neglect rate for lane changing is 48% and 25% when making turns.

With that in mind, drivers need to use their turn signals before changing lanes, turning right or left, merging into traffic and parking.

Here are some tips, provided by the Iowa Department of Transportation, on the use of turn signals. You may want to pass this list along to your drivers as a friendly reminder.

  • Get into the habit of signaling every time you change direction. Signal even when you do not see anyone else around. It’s easy to miss someone who needs to know what you are doing.
  • Signal as early as you can. Try and signal at least three seconds before you make your move. You must 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, you must signal at least 300 feet before you turn.
  • Be careful that you do not 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 have 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 have made a turn or lane change, make sure your turn signal is off. After short turns, the signals may not turn off by themselves. Turn it off if it has not canceled by itself. If you do not, other drivers might think you plan to turn again.

Sure, all this advice is common sense. But for one reason or another, daydreaming and distracted drivers are often negligent turn-signal users. So it’s important to make a habit of properly using your turn signals, even in parking lots. Don’t rely on the guesswork of other motorists. Make your intentions known as much as possible.