• May 1st 2012 at 2:00PM
  • 491
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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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      The new dangerous trend is running red lights. I see at least 5 per day and the worthless cops won't do a damn thing about it!
      • 3 Years Ago
      And let's not forgot about the morons who drive from one county to the next and never turn their signals off.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm guessing around 1 % of all drivers throw on their bilateral blinking flashers when slowing abrupty in traffic (stopped or turning traffic just ahead.) cpd
      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!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I would love it if we came out with a new law making it illegal to be in the fast lane, have someone behind you driving faster than you, and you not getting over to let them by. Just like the autobahn. It should also be illegal to pass on the right. The two go hand in hand. Passing on the right AND not using your signal is what causes accidents, not to mention traffic jams. I'd love to see the statistics on that.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Well, if you are in front of me in the fast lane and won't move over to let me by, then I will pass you on the right. You can't have it both ways. Let's discuss driving in the "fast lane" - if the speed limit is 65 and I'm doing that, why should I move over? The "fast lane" is not a race lane.
        • 3 Years Ago
        There are states if not all that has the law that the left lane is for passing and you should do normal driving in the right lane. Unfortunately drivers do not move over to faster traffic These are the drivers that cause the accidents because the force you to pass them on the right. When I do I flash my lights and sit on the horn. Always get by with no problem. I have probably woke up many people doing this. I may have saved their lives.
      • 3 Years Ago
      My sister never curses, so when she is driving and someone does something stupid, she will say, "Exemplary use of your blinker, dear Sir!" So much better than getting angry - but seriously, we shouldn't have to say that. Blinkers are so useful, and it's not like it takes much work to use it!
      Gary R. Gray
      • 3 Years Ago
      It has become a big problem. People need to get tickets for not using the turn signals. I don't know who will enforce this. Police are breaking this law themselves.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Gary R. Gray
        How bout you getting a ticket when you exceed the speed limit...and that is the reason you will never see people ticketed for non use of turn signals. Just like you, they make up their own rules.
      • 3 Years Ago
      This is definitely one of my pet peeves. My favorite pet peeve is the lack of comprehension regarding the passing lane. Morons in the passing lane who pace traffic in the slow lane or go even slower - Aaargh!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ok, I see it now. The public health and safety extremist lunatics are going to see this as an opportunity to destroy your life over it and throw you in jail. Great!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sometimes when turn signals are used, another driver will speed up to not let you in.
        Mark Lathom
        • 3 Years Ago
        That's because you drive too slow. That's no excuse for not using them.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Mark Lathom
          Quite the contrary – in my case anyway. You’ll find out who I am if you ever speed up to not let me in.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Seems like when I use one when changing lanes people ignore it or cut you off. So until people start paying attention and let other people merge when they use their signal instead of making it some kind of competition that they don't want to be behind another car or what ever, it's going to continue to be a problem.
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