Have you noticed this, too? It seems that fewer people are bothering to signal before they turn or change lanes. The answer may be related to another major danger—driving while distracted. The fact is, signaling your intentions to other drivers before you make a maneuver is an easy way to prevent what could be a serious collision. Yes, cars have much more sophisticated safety technology these days, but this little device—which has been common on vehicles since the 1940s—may be just as effective for saving lives.

How Many People Actually Use Turn Signals?

It’s one of the first things we learn in driver’s education courses. When making a lane change:

  • Check the rear and side view mirrors
  • Engage the turn signal
  • Check over your shoulder  to ensure clear right-of-way
  • Carefully make the change

We were also taught to signal before making a turn, even when stopped at an intersection in a turn-only lane.

This simple device lets others know what your intention is—something not always easily determined. If you feel like turn signaling is a dying art, you’re not wrong. A study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in 2012 found that 25 percent of drivers fail to signal before making a left- or right-hand turn. Even more drivers—48 percent—don't signal before changing lanes. By extrapolating their findings, the study authors estimated that failure to use a turn signal may directly cause as many as two million crashes every year.

Why Are People Refusing to Signal?

Many people aren't aware that using your turn signal to let people know you are making a turn is required by law. In Kansas, the statute reads as follows:

  • No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety, nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.
  • A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.

Turn Signals In TrafficThus, any time you make a turn or change lanes without signaling, you're breaking the law. By following the law and extending common courtesy, every driver who signals helps the flow of traffic.

So why do so many people fail to do it? Here are some common reasons:

  • Simple laziness. For many drivers, signaling is simply not a habit they ever got into. They may not be speeding or making erratic lane changes, but their lazy driving can be just as dangerous.
  • Aggressive driving. When people speed and drive aggressively, they don't leave themselves the opportunity to signal an action ahead of time. The last thing on their minds is paying other drivers the courtesy of letting them know where they intend to go.
  • Distraction. It’s hard to activate the turn signal when you are driving with one hand and holding a cell phone or cup of coffee with the other. Even when both hands are on the wheel, if the driver is distracted by a hands-free phone conversation or something on the radio or an untethered pet in the passenger seat, he or she is unlikely to remember to signal a turn.

Whatever the reason, there's no question that failing to signal can lead to a collision.

How Signaling Protects Drivers

A good, defensive driver is aware of her surroundings and looks for clues from other drivers about what their next moves are so that she knows what's safe for her to do. Brake lights let drivers know that a car is slowing down or stopping. Turn signals are just as important.

When a driver signals appropriately, other drivers know the following:

  • It's safe to pull out onto a street.
  • A car is about to move into your lane in front of you.
  • The car in front of you will soon be slowing down to make a turn.

Just as signaling before a turn is important, so is shutting off your signal after the turn is complete. Most turn signals are designed to do this automatically, but if yours doesn’t, it can be hazardous to leave it on because other drivers will be expecting you to do something you're not going to do.

Have You Been Injured In A Kansas City Area Car Accident?

If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.


James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.