We've all been there: some disrespectful driver jets out of another lane right in front of you without any indication in the blink of an eye. Using your turn signal is a matter of safety and courtesy to the other drivers you're sharing the road with. All it takes is moving one of your fingers a few inches. It's not that physically challenging to use your turn signals, so it must either be a deliberate disregard for human safety or the inability to remember a basic safety habit when driving that's introduced fairly early in Driver's Education programs.
In fact, it's so blatantly obvious that your teacher may have assumed you should know to use it. So naturally when someone changes lanes without bothering to signal, we say a few choice words, maybe express our opinions with our hands in a way that's not a common endearment, and let it go a few minutes later. If we're polite we might tell them they need to enroll into a defensive driving course.
While we generally chalk this kind of blockheaded driving up to a personal indifference to the well-being of others and rudeness, it's actually a major cause of collisions on the road. A Society of Automotive Engineers study found that failure to properly use turn signal indicators plays a roll in upwards of two million motor vehicle accidents in the United States every year. If you're doing the math, that's a rate of about 1 crash for every 160 people each year. That's a lot of crashes. To put it into perspective, people who are doing things like reading books, text messaging on their cellular phones, heavily arguing with their partners, and other distracting tasks while driving account for under one million collisions each year. Now, while that's a lot of crashes, and there's certainly a some level of overlap, failing to hit the blinkers plays a role in twice as many crashes each year as distracted driving. There are state and national safety campaigns all across the country that take on distracted driving and aim to curb it. Many states have gone as far as to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving with the hope of people following the law and not getting into accidents. It's already illegal to change lanes and turn without using your signal, so the lack of public safety campaigns around using turn signals could be attributed to a lack of data or simply it's difficult to do it any other way than saying, "hey idiot, use your turn signal!"
While the data doesn't give us enough information as to how many of those two million accidents could've been avoided by not using turn signals, it marks a large number that could be reduced by literally flipping a switch. If you could save lives and property by just flipping a switch, why wouldn't you do it? We also attribute general laziness to people not using their turn signals.
So who are these idiots on the road that need to be instructed in the art of gently tapping a switch to turn on a blinking light that makes a difference in avoiding catastrophe possibly including, but not limited to, traffic violations, fines, vehicular damage, personal injury, dismemberment, loss of limbs, and loss of life? It turns out the same study found that people forget to hit that light when changing lanes upwards of 48 percent of the time. It's better for when we turn at intersections, but we forget to signal an embarrassingly high 25 percent of the time. It's time for a moment of honesty with ourselves: we're those idiots. Today we might be the person sending the inappropriate hand gesture, but tomorrow we might be the person on the receiving end. Other times we might be on both ends and have some reciprocal choice word exchanging. Some of us are a lot better about it than others, but this is an area where most of us could improve with practice and diligence. If you get a ticket for failing to use your turn signal, you can probably take a defensive driving course to move that violation from the "permanent record" column of your driving record to your personal "annoying fines I had to pay" life score column. Having to go to a traffic school because of forgetting to do such a simple, basic driving practice might make you feel a bit cynical and feeling that aside from remembering to use your turn signal and taking that ticket off your record, your class isn't the best use of your time. To avoid growing into an insufferable cynic, taking a Comedy Defensive Driving course could be a much more productive use of your time, as you'll at least enjoy yourself during the class.