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A Clear Signal That More Than a Lane Change is Required

Vehicle with its left directional signal activ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve come to realize that the Lower Mainland has an issue with driving habits. For all the training we receive as young drivers, this soon goes out the window, (along with the cigarette butts), to be replaced with non-trivial driver actions such as the Sushi Stop (or California Roll), the nominal speed limits, cell phone calls and texting, and optional indicators. These are lazy driving habits that significantly increase the risk of accidents, and from my perspective, lead to greater acceptance of aggressive driving and other anti-social behaviours. The RCMP have recently stepped up their campaign against cell phone use and distracted driving, but is this the worst of these offences?

A recently released study from the American Society of Automobiles sheds some new light on the use or lack thereof, of turn signals. These devices are considered important enough that they are not only required to be installed in all vehicles, but their use is required by law in all jurisdictions in North America as a key component of safe driving. Considering that we’ve all seen drivers fail to indicate, have you wondered just how prevalent this habit is, and whether it is worth getting as worked up about it as we might? Well in the study of 12,00 vehicles, the results are astounding.

According to the report, drivers fail to use their signal when changing lanes 48 percent of the time. When turning, they neglect their turn signal 25 percent of the time.

Researchers then extrapolated their data to conclude that “the collective result of turn-signal neglect [in the US] is as many as 2 million crashes per year” and drivers ignore using their signals when they should be using them 2 billion times a day. “Each incident of neglect elevates the risk of a multi-vehicle crash,” researchers said in a statement.

With much media and political focus on distracted driving, particularly with April recently being “End Distracted Driving” month, its worth questioning how this rates as a primary cause of accidents – and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that it causes over 1 million accidents per year in the U.S.

Considering it was a group of engineers that prepared the study, I’d assume that technology was suggested to automate the signaling of a lane change or turn, but is that the answer to the problem? In the short term, targeted police enforcement would be a good first step, while changing more intersections to roundabouts and converting hostile streetscapes to shared spaces seems like a piece in the puzzle.

Your Thoughts?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.