The importance of signalling

I have alluded to this issue at various times throughout previous posts, but I suppose it’s time to address the issue directly.

Signalling is very super duper important.  It is an effective way to communicate with vehicles around you, and you should be communicating.  Whether it is your turn signals, flashing your high beams, or an *appropriate* hand gesture, communication is integral to a conducive driving environment.

As I have said before, driving is a group activity.  A group cannot function if there is no communication within the group.  Fact of life.  

Now, it may seem obvious what I am about to explain, but I’m sure you all have seen these atrocities occur over and over again.

Turn signals:

  1. When changing lanes:  It is important to signal when changing lanes.  Not only to avoid an unnecessary police pursuit, but also to make sure you don’t die or kill someone else while trying to get into another lane.  Try to signal at least 3 or 4 second before you actually change lanes so that the people around you have time to notice your desire and react accordingly.
    What happens if you don’t signal:  Someone else may try to go into the same lane that you want to go into, but since you didn’t signal, they have no idea, and there could be a collision; you are ticketed; you piss everyone off and look like a douche.
  2. When making a turn:  This really should be the most obvious, but where problems occur here tend to be in timing.  When do you start signalling?  If there are a lot of entryways/driveways/streets before where you actually want to turn, begin signalling after you have passed the entryway/driveway/street that immediately precedes your turn.  That way, there won’t be any confusion for the people trying to turn out of the entryways/driveways/streets you are passing. At a stop sign, it is essential to signal to tell everyone else at the intersection where you want to go so that they can plan their maneuvers accordingly.
    What happens if you don’t signal or signal too early: Someone trying to turn out of where you’re turning into could lose an opportunity to pull onto the road; if signalling too early, the people making an exit may think you’re turning into their exit point and pull onto the road in front of you;  at a stop sign, you just piss people off by either running into them when they make a maneuver that they think is safe because they are under the assumption that you are not turning, or they lose their turn to go because they were waiting for you to do something that you weren’t actually intending to do.  It also confuses the people driving behind you when you randomly decide to slow down and don’t signal that you are intending to make a turn.
  3. Don’t forget to turn off your turn signal:  If you leave your turn signal on after you performed the intended maneuver, you can cause all kinds of confusion and frustration to the drivers around you.  The problems in #2 apply to this.  Also, if you leave the signal on while on the highway, you’re confusing everyone around you when they create a gap for you to get over (because that is what you are telling you want to do) and you do not take advantage of it.  You will also be laughed by everyone around you once they’ve noticed you left it on.
Either flashing high beams or using appropriate hand gestures:
  1. While at a stop sign:  I would suggest you just follow the first come, first move rule, but if you are lost or for some other reason unable to move come your turn, or you arrived at the same time and you want to be nice and let the other person go first (and they are directly across from you), go ahead and flash the high beams.  You may also use a wave to signal to people that they may go before you.
  2. Pedestrians:  If you are stuck awkwardly staring at a pedestrian waiting for them to grow a pair and cross the road, go ahead and wave them on to let them know you will not run them over despite the fact that you have already come to a complete stop.  Flashing your high beams can also work if you are far enough away from the crosswalk.
  3. When you see another MINI: Here is where I reveal that I drive a MINI.  If you see another MINI driver, flash your high beams or wave.  It is a sign of community to greet a fellow MINI driver… and if you don’t flash back or wave, you make the other driver really depressed.
Generally high beams only:
  1. When you have passed a cop:  I never pick up on this hint, but flashing high beams can also serve as a warning to other driver that there are police in the area and to slow down.  However this had been made “illegal” in some areas, so be careful.
  2. On the highway:  Flash your high beams to signal to a vehicle ahead of you that they can go ahead and make their intended maneuver.  If you have created a gap but the people are hesitant, let them know you are being nice by flashing your high beams, signalling that they are safe to go.
Now, go make friends on the road!
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You can’t make everyone happy

Perhaps this should be one of the fundamentals of driving… and perhaps a sentiment to live by.

Over the last few months of driving, I have found myself unable to get anywhere without becoming horribly upset with the journey. Slow people, fast people, pedestrians, people that don’t like to use their signals, people that don’t understand how signalling works, people that don’t check their mirrors when performing a maneuverpeople that don’t understand the concept of a stop sign…. the list could go on and on.  And I’m sure people would have their own complaints about my driving.  But that’s where we reach the critical lesson.  We’re all fucked.  While I’m sitting in my car cursing out loud at the person failing to merge at highway speeds, they’re probably sitting in their car cursing me for coming up behind them so fast and blazing past them once I have the chance.

Perhaps I’m too impatient (understatement of the century) and/or perhaps other people have lost a few too many brain cells in their old age.  Either way, no one is going to be happy while driving.  Unless, of course, .) there is no one else on the road (the only place where true euphoria can be found), or b) everyone stops driving.  I am not a proponent of the second option, and on further reflection, public transportation contains all of the same problems that exist on the road.

Everyone will still be complaining about how quickly they can reach their destinations—delays, train speed limits, bus speed limits, etc.  People will also complain about their personal space being invaded, how slow the person in front of them is walking, people cutting them off while they’re trying to walk somewhere, people running into each other… pretty much any driving experience can be transferred to a walking experience.

Other modes of transportation also completely remove the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want.  This is obviously a big issue.

Then I thought, Chauffeurs!  Everyone should have to have a licensed chauffeur drive their cars!  New job opportunities, you purchase the chauffeur with the car, they… live in a makeshift apartment in the buyer’s garage…. and stuff.

While this idea sounds cool… sort of… the logistics of that would be terrible.  Plus, it’d be pretty hard to guarantee that those chauffeurs don’t eff things up just as badly as regular drivers do now.  Ideally, they would be trained drivers that know their shit and all that.  But, it’ll probably end up being like taxis where the drivers are crazy as hell and make driving seem more like a game of grand theft auto.

And they would probably have the problem of backseat drivers leaning forward and saying, “Um, excuse me, I do believe the speed limit is 65.  It appears to me that you are going 68.  Please slow down.”  And probably people that don’t like taking turns at reasonable speeds… All that other nonsense.

That was a bit of a rant that may or may not have been on topic, depending on how you look at it.  Anywho, driving should be a pleasurable experience—going places, seeing new things, feeling the wind on your hair, feeling the adrenaline flowing—but it seems as though this is a rare occurrence these days for many reasons (mainly stupid people, but I’ll pretend I’m not explicitly blaming any particular group).

Solutions?  Get rid of all the stupid people, but I feel that may create a moral dilemma for some people.  Other than that…  nothing.  People that care about driving and love to drive will probably care to better their driving and learn from their mistakes and generally attempt to approve the atmosphere on the roads.  People that think of cars as a way to get from Point A to Point E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y, couldn’t care less about who’s turn it is at an unregulated intersection or using a slow vehicle turn out while traveling up a mountain pass.  Aside from having highway patrol do something useful and pull over people acting like dicks (which, honestly, wouldn’t do anything other than generate income for the state), there is nothing that can be done within reason to improve conditions on roadways.

<images of doom and gloom go here.  use your imagination.>