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A recent study highlights the danger of turn signal neg... A recent study highlights the danger of turn signal neglect (andyarthur, Flickr).
A study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers made a rather surprising claim when presented last week in Dayton, Ohio: Turn signal neglect is causing millions of crashes per year and may be more dangerous than distracted driving.

SAE observed a total of 12,000 lane-changing and turning vehicles and concluded 25 percent of drivers neglected to signal when turning and a whopping 48 percent neglected to do so when changing lanes. Applying these percentages to U.S. drivers as a whole translates to 750 billion instances of turn signal neglect per year – or more than 2 billion instances per day, according to the study.

The study estimated that approximately 2 million crashes per year are a direct result of this issue.

By comparison, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that about 950,000 crashes are the direct result of distracted driving (driving while texting, talking on the phone, eating, putting on makeup, etc.).

"This is a first-of-its-kind report on a subject that amazingly, has never been studied," said Richard Ponziana, president of RLP Engineering and author of the report. "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."

"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."
How often do you use your turn signal?
All the time 15469 (71.6%)
Most of the time 5589 (25.9%)
Rarely 403 (1.9%)
Never 131 (0.6%)


The solution

SAE proposed a "simple" solution in the report: The Smart Turn Signal. This system uses vehicle sensors and computer control to assist the driver in assuring that the turn signal is used regularly – in other words, it tells you when you forgot to do so – and also shuts this signal off if the driver forgets that it is on.

According to SAE, because the system uses the same sensors employed by a vehicle's stability control system (which is standard on all new cars), adding Smart Turn Signals would come at no cost to the manufacturer or, in turn, the consumer.

The report also notes that Smart Turn Signals save weight and space, as they eliminate the turn signal trip mechanism – a system that has been around since 1940 and has never really been improved upon, despite exposed defects.

"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," Ponziani said.

But until Smart Turn Signals are mandated on vehicles, keep in mind that while we're all guilty of turn signal neglect – I myself am a chronic offender – the numbers don't lie. Make a serious effort to use your turn signal whenever you're switching lanes or turning (and switch it off when you're done!) and help make the road a safer place.

For more information on the study, see the full report at http://www.sae.org.


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  • 491 Comments
      Jones Family
      • 3 Years Ago
      When you add up the amount of accidents caused by non-signalers, those that turn on their signal and then immediately change lanes when it is unsafe and illegal, and those who think because they have their turn signal on they may make an illegal turn across oncoming traffic (this includes emergency vehicles when not on an emergency, i.e. using the bathroom at Starbucks) yet they themselves are not involved in, I'm sure the statistics would double to 4 million. Also, the study doesn't show the how many drivers didn't signal because they were distracted driving.
      katie01967
      • 3 Years Ago
      WRONG! The problem is the driver tried to squeeze into a space where there wasn"t room for their car----if there was sufficient space to safely pull in front of someone then the turn signal is unneeded. More accidents are caused by people who think turning on thei turn signal gives them the right of way and expect others to hit their brakes to let them in tthan by people who pull into a opening with plenty of space. The tickets for not using turn signals are invariably given to drivers on an empty or near empty interstate who don't signal that they are changing lanes. Anyone who trusts a turn signal is foolish anyway. Everyone has watched a car approach with its indicator light blinking only to have the car not turn but instead zoom past. Another silly place where turn signals are meaningless is on entrance ramps to freeways/interstes. Is it really necesary to inform the auto behind you that you plan to follow the ramp onto the highway rather than run off tthe road? Turn signals are a courteous gesture if used properly but their use is not a true safety issue. Using a turn signal does not make a reckless lane changer less dangerous. Not using it does not make a prudent lane changer reckless.
        IVAN
        • 3 Years Ago
        @katie01967
        You should explain this to the fools who think it is ok to pass the truck (in the on ramp lane) in front of them as it tries to get into the lane at a slower speed then the car can do. I can't count the number of car drivers who have tried this and ended up slamming on their brakes to avoid the truck coming in as they try to pass. I find it quite amusing (their frustration, that is).
        whelaniii
        • 3 Years Ago
        @katie01967
        Being A little bit courtise might help solve a lot of problems, to many people are in a rush and could give a **** who else is on the road
      george
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just for kicks I use traditional hand turn signals occasionally and get weird looks from some folks especially young drivers. Many young drivers have no clue that a bent left elbow out the driver’s window means a right turn and a straight out arm means a left turn. Of course I'm older than dirt and was around when signal lights were first placed on vehicles. Sure glad I don't depend on the younger generation to provide manual arm signals before turning. Perhaps we should bring manual signaling back as a novelty and the younger folks would actually use them
        IVAN
        • 3 Years Ago
        @george
        Good luck with that concept gr... Most bicycle riders are supposed to know those forms of signals, but they don't use them either. As for me, if you use them, I'll know what you mean. Safe driving...
      goldengolfball
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yes this and the morons that get on the expressway going 35 miles an hour trying to merge into a 70 mile an hour lane. AAHHH people they make the on ramp 1.5 miles long so you have time to gety up to highway speed BEFORE you get to the freeway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        myoung4828
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goldengolfball
        Oh my gosh, they took a few precious moments out of your life, and for this, what, you speed up to 90 to make up the time....we know your type..you are just as bad as them.
      Greg Bowser
      • 3 Years Ago
      Depending on where you live you may not have a choice. I live in South Florida....voted the rudest drivers in the US. While I always use my signals for turns, I rarely use them for lane changes. The reason? If you put your signal on here to change lanes, the vehicles behind you will speed up so you can't get in. It's an everday occurence here. When I drive in other states it's like wow, that person slowed down to give me room to get over! I can't wait to move out of this sh**thole!!!!
      • 3 Years Ago
      What I notice about driving in heavy traffic, at a high rate of speed, lots of folks use their turn signals but do not look before changing lanes. Just because the turn signal is on does not mean you can change lanes right away. When someone barges in front of me (I do give lots of room) I just scratch my head and think that so-and-so must be a NASCAR fan and wants to rub. Always look before you leap!
      pooua
      • 3 Years Ago
      Drivers in different areas treat turn signals differently. When I lived in Virginia (1984-88), I found that other drivers aggressively blocked me when I used my turn signals to indicate lane change. They actually sped up so I could not make the change I had indicated. I watched one woman following behind me in her vehicle for a mile, until I signaled a lane change. She accelerated into the space I had indicated I wished to occupy as she honked her horn, until she passed me. Much of the driving habits in Texas can be explained as people acclimated to driving on rural or ranch roads. Few drivers use their turn signals. I keep a video camera recording while I drive, and I often point out people who are violating driving laws, such as turn signal use. "Use your turn signal," I often say to the driver ahead of me, caught on video.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sometimes when the car next to me is going slow, and I'm just coasting past it in the next lane, a racer will come up like a bat out of hell, and apparently without realizing the car was going so slow, so must jam the brakes hard on to avoid rear-ending it. Just like the car that steams up to a red light and waits until there's only 20 yards before slowing down. Whatever happened to anticipation? Are these people asleep, or watching the hood ornament?
      ptagliente
      • 3 Years Ago
      I agree & do most idiotic people obey the law? I don't think so. It's quite simple people. We need to open our eyes & obey the law. My biggest annoyance is that people don't signal when changing lanes or turning, driving with cell phones & eating while driving. These idiots should not be on the road; I cannot tolerate it. We need to do something about safe driving; including tailgating.
        myoung4828
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ptagliente
        so you mentioned a couple things instead of saying ALL the driving laws. Otherwise you give people the option to pick and choose.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Before we moved to the States, my husband was a D.O.T. Approved Driving Instructor in the UK. Since we moved to Florida, he's convinced that drivers aren't taught to use their turn signals. Comments like "What's up? Ran out of blinker fluid?" or "Don't indicate, idiot! I'm clairvoyant!" are often heard in our car, and his pet peeve....drivers who drive in the fast lane (far left lane) and stay there!!! Most going slower than the traffic in the right lane, causing all sorts of problems behind.....I once asked a driver why he did that, his response was he was doing the speed limit so he was doing nothing wrong, he went on to say that he'd never been in an accident...my husband replied, "that may be the case but I guarantee you've caused hundreds!"
      hi
      • 3 Years Ago
      yeah that and the left lane law, staying out of the left lane when you can, being nice and letting the guy /girl pass by moving right when you can. Helps traffic flow better. If not, your being a "road hog" on a power trip. The faster left lane also has right away when merging back to the right after a pass. The stop sign at same time, who supposed to go...the person to the right....Its as if everybody doesn't care anymore....Its just common curtsy, come on and lets just be nice about it....i dont care if people speed past me on the left, but the road hogs on the left that sit in my blind spot, causing the faster traffic to have to come around me, cut ME off, when they should cut the road hog off. My truck weighs a lot...it dont stop fast either. big wheel means I'm not only coming in but over the top if you catch my drift....
        myoung4828
        • 3 Years Ago
        @hi
        Oh please, people are angry when you go slower than them in any lane, including the slow lane, because they are selfish pigs.
        nebro
        • 3 Years Ago
        @hi
        I agree with everything except: In the 3 states I've lived in, the person in a lane always has the right of way for that lane. So if you are in the left lane and trying to merge back into the right, you must yield to the cars already in the right lane. So when driving in other states, please familiarize yourself with their laws.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @hi
        In the states I've lived in, the right lane must be clear before the person on the left can merge into it. The drivers in the right line have the right of way.
      ldkennison
      • 3 Years Ago
      I got a $118 ticket a few weeks ago for "failure to signal a lane change." There was no moving vehicle within 200 feet of me in any direction. I think this proves the "ticket quota" theory. This was the first moving violation ticket I have had in over 800,000 miles of driving, in a busy large city. Last ticket i got? Going 4 mph over the speed limit on a wide, but busy street in which everyone goes at least that fast.
        myoung4828
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ldkennison
        You should play the lottery, that was probably the only non use of signal ticket ever written. But to characterize your comment: if I don't get caught very often doing something illegal, it's ok that I do it at will and if I am ticketed that is wrong.
        roland
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ldkennison
        Idkem---- I know what you mean,I'm over 80,and my father who drove trucks for a living thought turn signals were invented for people who didn't know the rules or keep them.He said anyone who drove properly would never have to signal what they were going to do because they would always leave room for their maneuvers.I think he was right as all I see them used for is when you're driving 65 or 70 ,and some fool behind you pulls to the left of you and then flips on his right signal,cuts you off with 3 feet to spare,and exits off the next ramp.
        whelaniii
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ldkennison
        I bet you use your signals now
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