The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has taken dead aim at stamping out distracted driving and with good reason. Last year, inattentive drivers caused around 950,000 accidents. But according to a new study by the Society of Automotive Engineers, there's another issue causing even more accidents across the country: turn signal neglect. According to their research, drivers neglect their turn signals, either by failing to turn when their signal is activated or not activating the signal at all, an astonishing 750 billion times a year. What's more, neglecting the signals may be responsible for as many as two million accidents per year.

SAE says the solution lies in the implementation of so-called "Smart Turn Signals," which use sensors to shut off turn signals before they become a safety hazard. What's more, engineers can integrate a "Turn Signal Assist" feature, which uses a vehicle information display to alert the driver if they fail to use turn signals on a regular basis or don't shut them off in a timely manner. The report says that since the system uses sensors already integrated into the stability control module, there would be no cost added to the vehicle's bottom line.

This is our skeptical face. We're major proponents of proper and consistent turn signal use, but we're bigger fans of creating smarter drivers through education than we are of building smarter cars. Hit the jump for the full press release.
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Epidemic Turn Signal Neglect Rate Now Approaching 50%, Causing Millions of Crashes per Year

Society of Automotive Engineers Report: with Effects Worse than Distracted Driving, Turn Signal Neglect is No Longer Just an Annoyance

Dayton, Ohio (PRWEB) April 24, 2012

In a revealing new report published by the Society of Automotive Engineers this week at the 2012 SAE World Congress, an in-depth observation study of turn signal rate-of-neglect not only exposes how widespread the problem is, but how simple the solution is.

A total of 12,000 turning and lane-changing vehicles were observed with visible turn signal usage (or neglect) data recorded. The study shows that the neglect rate for lane changing vehicles is 48% and the neglect rate for turning vehicles is 25%. That translates to an astonishing 750 billion times a year that drivers neglect turn signals on U.S. roadways, or over 2 billion times per day. Each incident of neglect elevates the risk of a multi-vehicle crash.

Obviously, not every absent turn signal results in a crash, but the study concludes that the collective result of turn signal neglect is as many as 2 million crashes per year. In comparison, the U.S. Department of Transportation states that Distracted Driving causes about 950,000 crashes per year, so Turn Signal Neglect is actually a more significant safety issue. While the causes and remedies to combat Distracted Driving remain a matter of ongoing debate, the remedy for Turn Signal Neglect is simple, direct, effective, and cost-saving: The singular cause is driver neglect and the solution is the Smart Turn Signal.

Smart Turn Signals use vehicle sensors and computer control to not only shut off the turn signal appropriately and accurately under every conceivable driving situation, but also assists the driver to assure that the turn signal is used regularly. The Turn Signal Assist feature is similar to a seat belt reminder – If you habitually neglect the use of your turn signal when you execute turns, you will eventually get a friendly reminder display. For drivers who use turn signals nearly every time, no display will ever appear, so it is never a nuisance for most drivers. Drivers who neglect their turn signals will quickly improve their habits and therefore reduce their overall risk of involvement in a crash as well as reducing the risk of getting a traffic citation.

Smart Turn Signals actually use the information from the very same vehicle sensors used for the Stability Control System (now standard on all new cars), so no cost is added to the vehicle. In fact, there are savings in cost, space and weight because the turn signal trip mechanism is eliminated. Advances in vehicle computer control have exposed the defects of the trip mechanism, which first went into production in 1940 and has remained unimproved for 72 years.

"This is a first of its kind report on a subject that amazingly, has never been studied. The turn signal is one of the very original automotive crash prevention devices and this simple driver to driver communication device remains extremely effective, but only when it is accurately displayed as required by law", states Richard Ponziani, P.E., President of RLP Engineering and author of the report. "The turn signal can no longer be considered 'optional' and all drivers have an ongoing duty to use it, just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or at a red light" he added. Ponziani further stated: "Smart Turn Signals are the perfect complement to the Stability Control System since Stability Control predominately prevents single-vehicle crashes, whereas the Smart Turn Signal prevents multi-vehicle crashes".

The Smart Turn Signal system has been in development for the past several years and the highly favorable cost to benefit ratio makes the urgent need for Smart Turn Signals even more obvious. It is anticipated that this life-saving technology will be integrated into production vehicles in the near future. This breakthrough represents a perfect opportunity to significantly reduce multi-vehicle crash rates, reduce vehicle cost and make driving a lot more friendly and courteous across the U.S.

The SAE report, publication number 2012-01-0261 is available at http://www.sae.org. RLP Engineering is a consulting firm in Dayton, Ohio specializing in vehicle safety design.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 104 Comments
      sebster718
      • 3 Years Ago
      Every time I see articles like this I laugh. The solution is better driver education, it always has been. Not more complicated cars. The problem is people not signaling, not the car forgetting to signal.
        NightFlight
        • 3 Years Ago
        @sebster718
        Honestly, all that has to be done to fix drivers education in America is modeling our system EXACTLY after Germany's. It would be mandatory for all new licenses, and you would have to be retrained if you are a habitual offender. I've spent a ton of time in Germany, and they have some of the best drivers in the entire world. Problem solved.
      TheGoldenJ
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm in college and all of my friends from the NY/NJ area suck at using turn signals. They always wonder why I won't let them drive my car and when I tell them it's because they don't use their turn signals they give me the dumbest look. Instead of making the car do it for the driver there should be strict penalties put in place for people who improperly signal. In Virginia you can go to jail if you go 20 MPH over the speed limit - same rules should apply to improper turn signal use.
      Audidodee
      • 3 Years Ago
      While you're teaching people to use their turn signals, how about teaching them they are used to signal the INTENT to turn or change lane, not the fact they ARE turning. Turning on a turn signal as you're making the turn is just as bad as not using one at all. Or how about if they limit the amount the steering wheel can turn unless the turn signal is activated? You'll have enough motion to make minor corrections, but if you want to turn more than 15 or 20 degrees you have to use the turn signal to unlock the steering column. Yeah, it's a dumb idea. But no dumber than many of the other nannies they're putting in cars nowadays because the average American driver is to lazy (or stupid) to learn how to drive properly.
        Eye Heart Pie
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Audidodee
        That goes beyond dumb into dangerous territory. If the steering wheel locked unless the turn signal was used, it would make emergency avoidance much tougher, especially if you didn't have time to turn the signal before wrenching the wheel over.
      motoramic
      • 3 Years Ago
      IT'S SO EFFING ANNOYING when people don't use their turn signal or forget to turn them off!
        Sean Conrad
        • 3 Years Ago
        @motoramic
        The first annoys me, the second terrifies me. Why? Because it says "I'm not even paying enough attention to know my blinker is still on." It means they aren't looking at their dashboard to see how fast they are going... at all.
      Blackbird
      • 3 Years Ago
      I wish all cars here required amber taillights. They stand out alot better for sure. But I think there's a reason why some people don't use their signals. In traffic a turn signal seems to be a signal for someone in the next lane to close the gap so you can't get in. It happens to me everytime I put my signal on in traffic. The douchebag in the lane i'm trying to get in lurches forward and disallows me to get in the lane.
      CJB200
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lead by example. Teach cops to use signals and others will follow. Here in FL at least, it's a rarity to see a cop signal.
        kevsflanagan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @CJB200
        And on top of it have the police actually enforce the law for improper lane change to boot!
      telm12345
      • 3 Years Ago
      Agree with multiple comments here that turn signals are not used enough. Also, driving in the left lane. It's a PASSING lane. You get quite a ticket for driving in the left lane in Europe. I honestly believe it is a cause for a lot of road rage as well. This brings me to my point: Where is the police in all of this? Why wont' they enforce the laws? Specifically for turn signals and for driving slowly in the left lane. It is a matter of safety.
        NightFlight
        • 3 Years Ago
        @telm12345
        I can't get over the left lane hogs either. Last night on my way home there was a girl in the leftmost lane of a three lane highway, texting, and driving 10mph under the speed limit. This is no exaggeration. 10MPH UNDER the limit while texting, completely oblivious to what was going on around her.
        kevsflanagan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @telm12345
        The "fines" for such "infractions" to the police are to little to justify possible paper work. They seem to only write those tickets once at the scene of a accident. Sadly they don't see it as a revenue generator so to them who cares right?
        mapoftazifosho
        • 3 Years Ago
        @telm12345
        And the people that use the right lane as a temp passing lane as well. It's not a passing lane! It's the slow, exit, enter the highway lane. You don't get to ride someone's arse in the right lane to pass!
          michigan
          • 3 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          It's a freeway - they are all fast lanes. If someone is driving too slow on the left, then pass them on the right
          NissanGTR
          • 3 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          How about you move to the slow lane so we can pass on the left.
          kevsflanagan
          • 3 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          I've been in the right lane and have had people riding my arse on a 3 lane highway. I wished to hell I've had a bull horn so I could say "I'm In The SLOW LANE!!".
        icon149
        • 3 Years Ago
        @telm12345
        I agree. If the police would spend the time to seriously route out the small inconsequential stuff that effects safety, much of the bigger issues would probably go away, or the consequences of those perceived bigger offenses would be less severe. And what i mean is, if the left lane wasn't clogged with slow drives, causings the people who want to drive fast to tail gate and or pass on the right (usually at higher than necessary speeds because they are angry at the person clogging the lane), then the chances of an accident happening are less, and one accident becoming a pile up would be less because of the lack of a need to tail gate. (people tail gate because they can't pass, and they don't want anyone to slip in front of them from the right lane.) people wouldn't speed as much because they wouldn't be pissed about having to go slow, and if they do speed, there is an open clear lane where everyone is driving predictably so the consequences of the speeding aren't as great. less chance of an accident if you aren't swerving all over the road. Not to mention swerving all over the road and then having someone not using a turn signal move into the lane the person passing on the right was planning to occupy when he comes screaming past the slow mover in the left lane. it all adds up to dangerous roads and it starts at the little issues that the police themselves don't care about and don't seem to follow anyway. (how many police officers use turn signals to change lanes?
      FreeThinker
      • 3 Years Ago
      This has been mentioned before, but needs more emphasis: The term "signal" means to give advanced warning BEFORE committing act, not at the very moment you proceed to act. signal - [SIG -nl] (noun) 1. Anything that serves to indicate, warn, direct, command, or the like, as a light, gesture, or an act, etc. (a turn signal, a traffic signal, a signal to leave.) Some might say, "Yeah yeah, I know what a turn signal is." No, no I don't think some of you do. It's like making a rental car reservation only to find out they've run out of cars at the airport: "You know how to TAKE the reservation. But you don't know how to HOLD the reservation." (J.S.) Like the douche bag in the Prius I encountered last week who, upon passing me on the right by barely ONE DOOR length, proceeded to signal once AND simultaneously cut left into my lane so that his left rear door and the rest of his car was about to smack into my right front fender and passenger door! I could see the side of his tailight coming toward me through my front passenger window! Luckily there was an open median or island on this 4-lane road with double double-yellow stripes. So I dove into the median to avoid the impact and went around him, allowing him to fall behind me. There was no one behind me before this occurred. At the next red light, the douche bagger in the Prius pulled up into an illegal section of "no man's land" right next to me, where buses usually stop, to yell at me! This happens all the time in L.A. People try to "pull a fast one" on you, then get mad at YOU when THEY fail at the last second! Due to poor planning on their part. LOL! He looked like Joe Piscopo's little brother with a fake orange tan and tall hair, his bright yellow car salesman necktie bulging as he went on swearing in total STEROID rage! He kept demanding that I roll my window down. I laughed at him. Such a sad, frustrated little man in desperate need of a beer and a BJ. I just laughed at him. When he realized he had no recourse, he proceeded to BLOW THE RED LIGHT at WOT! Cutting straight through traffic that was exiting the highway! People like this on the road are proof that we need more driver education to get a license.
        ZenDriver
        • 3 Years Ago
        @FreeThinker
        Don't you just love that? The dude could have just waited and cruised in behind your car smoothly. But why drive smoothly in traffic like a cool cat when you can act out your lifelong frustrations against some complete stranger in another car? I mean, you need to let everyone know just how big the chip on your shoulder really is, right? :/sarcasm Was yours an expensive car? I noticed that more people try to "pull a fast one"--as you put it--on me when I drive my shiny luxury sports car than when I drive my old beater. In any case, people who don't know how to use their turn signal are simply stupid. It helps to keep traffic flowing more smoothly by allowing others to anticipate our next move and adjust their speed gradually rather than abruptly.
      WillieD
      • 3 Years Ago
      I was following behind a driver a few months ago who failed to use their turn signal on a left turn. I gave them a little honk, since they were too incompetent to use their signal. They turn around and start following me. They followed me all the way to my neighborhood, about 5 miles away and then turned around and went back. I just can't believe how ridiculous some people are. Following me almost to my home because you don't know how to drive? I laugh at your stupidity. And I have to go through a 4-way stop everyday and I absolutely can't stand it when people don't use their signals. It wastes time and it's more dangerous. I'll never understand people who can't seem to figure out how to use their turn signals.
        kevsflanagan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @WillieD
        I have and always will think of using turn signals as this "Let others know what your doing.". Saves agrivation and possibly saves you from getting into a accident. I don't care to count how many times I've had to slam on my brakes due to someone doing the same stopping in the middle of the road and then turning not using a turn signal. If they used the turn signal I would of backed off even more (beyond 2 car lengths) and I wouldn't be annoyed beyond hell at the driver either.
      Sean Conrad
      • 3 Years Ago
      " What's more, engineers can integrate a "Turn Signal Assist" feature, which uses a vehicle information display to alert the driver if they fail to use turn signals on a regular basis or don't shut them off in a timely manner" Only if it permanently disables your vehicle if you fail to use your blinker more than 3 times.
      citidriver
      • 3 Years Ago
      Distracted driving is such a lame term, like there's a fly buzzing around your dash. If you are eating while at the wheel, you are not driving; if you are texting or on the phone or putting on make-up, you are not driving. You are intently and intentionally doing something other than driving while the car is moving. Auto braking, rear view cameras, lane departure tech, and now signaling done by your car? All of these technologies of course are great if you are an actual driver, they supplement what you are doing. But for most people who treat their car as an appliance or just another room of their house, this is just another accommodation and reduces the need for people to be better drivers.
      citidriver
      • 3 Years Ago
      It seems that "light truck" vehicles, SUV, CUV, minivans, etc. come with tinted glass all around. Also, recent styling on SUVs have upswept rear side windows. Multimedia is a given. All of these elements contribute to isolating the driver from the outside world. Compensatory tech like automatic braking or rear view cameras is then developed to accommodate those shortcomings. Most people get used to driving in their little cocoon and like it it so much they forget to include their driving responsibilities, like signaling, or ....
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