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Traffic Week: Turn, Turn, Turn Signals


After reading yet another news story about someone who made an Unsignaled Lane Change and ended up in really deep trouble for other infractions (to put it mildly), I offer this public service notice.

(Oh, and you can find out what that infraction will cost you at the OJD Base Fine Schedule website.)

I know most Oregonians (including police and parking enforcement vehicles) don’t have working turn signals, or maybe there is a turn-signal force-field around the state that shuts them off, but get yours fixed, or figure out how to make them work, and then use them.

Official Rules, read the DMV driver pamphlet (large file, 5+ MB – if you survive the download, look for the words “turn signals”)


1) USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS ANY TIME YOU CHANGE LANES, whether or not you see a police officer. They are watching and so am I. It’s very bad “Car-ma” not to use your turn signals, so make it a habit. It’s also really cheap insurance, for heaven’s sake. Just ask the Car Guys at Car Talk.

Smart people, who don’t have time and money to waste on traffic tickets or fender-benders, or worse, use their turn signals.

2) Use your turn signal BEFORE you change lanes, please, not once you’ve switched lanes or you’re in the highway exit – sheesh. (Putting your signal on when AFTERward is like checking you’re all tucked in and zipped up after you leave the restroom, not before.)

3) USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS, and show your kids that you use turn signals, when you/they:

a) Move from one lane of traffic to another, on any street, road, highway, etc. If you’re driving, you’re in a lane.

b) Moving out of your lane to park, or want to pull out of a parallel parking spot.

c) Position your car to move into a parking spot.

d) Leave a roundabout (more about roundabouts)

e) Exit the highway, USE YOUR TURN SIGNAL, BEFORE before you veer off, the DMV Driver Manual says:

Driver Signals:

You must signal before you turn, change lanes,move right or left, or pull away from a curb.
Before making such a move, be sure you can do so safely. Check traffic ahead, behind, and to
the side. If your vehicle is moving in traffic, use your turn signal at least 100 feet before the turn or lane change. When you are parked at a curb and about to re-enter traffic, use a signal long enough to alert oncoming traffic that you are moving into a traffic lane. You also should signal before you slow down or stop. Gently put your foot on the brake. Your stop lights will alert drivers behind you, and signal them that you are slowing down.

Use hand-and-arm signals (shown above) only in daylight when you need them and can clearly see people and vehicles at a distance of 1,000 feet. At night or when visibility is poor, you must use turn signal lights,not hand-and-arm signals. Hand-and-arm signals are not enough any time you are driving a wide or long vehicle.”

Turn Signal Myths:

1) Myth: Real men (and women) don’t use turn signals. Reality: Yes they do, especially if they have IQs over 50 and aren’t narcissists or sociopaths.

2) Myth: Turn signals are just for the cop car behind or in front of me: Reality: Nope. All smart drivers use their turn signals without even thinking. They use them all the time. Turn signals are not just for that cop car; they are for your own safety, the safety of your loved ones, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, and even if you’re alone. (Corollary: You are never alone on the road. Trust me. There are 6 billion+ people in the world. You Are Never Alone .“)

3) Myth: You can’t use a turn signal if you have a burrito in one hand, a cell phone in the other, are driving 75 miles per hour, and your kids are screaming in the back seat. Reality: As your mother would say, or a traffic cop, “we’ll show you some real screaming, when you get in a serious traffic accident, kill and maim your family, land in jail for killing and maiming someone else’s’ family.”

4) Myth: You can’t just tell a teen driver to use turn signals. You have to show! Reality: Like parent, like child. Don’t teach your own kids to drive. Get a professional to teach them to drive. Ask local law enforcement to show them what unsafe driving can do. No, you can’t make your kids use their turn signals (or drive safely), but can show them how to drive safely.

Other Traffic Week and Traffic Law OLR blog posts.


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2 responses to “Traffic Week: Turn, Turn, Turn Signals”

  1. duty says:

    Seriously, this blog was what I was looking for, this person is not only intelligent, but also abides by the “LAW” yes people; it is a law to actually use your turn signals. Unfortunately, on a daily basis I see approx. 10-15 people per day (50% adults mind you) not using their turn signals. Do they think the person behind them knows where they are going? I mean really?? Again it is against the law, and we must teach our young adults and re-teach the “adults”how to use this most common item on/in our cars.

  2. YourSoundMan says:

    In southern Connecticut, there seem to be three categories of vehicles that seem exempt from turn blinker usage:

    Vans(the kind with ladders on top that carpenters and plumbers drive), pickup trucks, and police cruisers. Perhaps their relative height or conspicuous markings make them stand out in traffic, but that doesn’t make it easier for me to read the minds of those drivers(!)

    Among regular sedan and SUV drivers, signal usage is hit or miss, but overall more consistent than those of the aforementioned police or light trucks.

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