Turn signal stupidity

Posted On: Tuesday - July 27th 2021 4:06AM MST
In Topics: 
  Curmudgeonry  Peak Stupidity Roadshow

A Steve Sailer post a couple of weeks ago, Road Rage Shootings Soar During the Racial Reckoning, brought out lots of back-and-forth comments regarding the use of turn signals. It doesn't take a a complete difference in ideology, Socialism vs. the Free Market, for example, to bring out lots of arguments. Sometimes the small stuff brings out the most vehement or drawn-out discussions as we have lots of our own personal experiences to argue from.

The use of turn signals on the road is one example, and that was the discussion in that thread. There ARE quite a lot of much more important things going on in the world*, I admit, but I'll just complete my opinion here, with one great example that came up a couple of days after that post, coincidentally.

Here's my contention: Turn signals are communication devices. I suppose that's obvious, but then people often don't use them as such, if at all**. I can remember the way many of the written driver's test questions were stated. (It can be difficult to make good multiple choice questions. See Making a fair multiple-choice test.):
23: You should activate your turn signal how far before the intersection at which you wish to make a turn:

( ) A. 200 ft.
( ) B. 150 ft.
( ) C. 100 ft.
( ) D. 75 ft.
I swear they had questions like that. The first problem with those answers is that most people couldn't estimate a distance within 50%. (I asked a woman at the Quicky Mart how far back down the road the barbecue place is that I missed. She told me "oh about 10 miles", but it was barely 2!.) They are also not good answers because the slight differences aren't important. It'd have been better to at least have 10 ft, 100 ft, 500 ft, and 1 mile, as the answers.

More pertinent to this post, the following last answer here ought to be on here and set as the correct one in the computer:
( ) E. It depends.
( ) F. You don't always need to use it at all.
( ) G. Both E and F are correct.
Turn signals are a communication device. Mindlessly just turning them on, so one doesn't have to bother thinking about them was suggested by multiple commenters. I've got a problem with that, basically because I think of driving as a skill and a challenge sometimes, not just a mindless effort. Maybe I should be on a Volkswagen commercial ("Drivers wanted"), but VWs are not my style.

In that thread in question commenter usNthem wrote ( It's comment #33. Link isn't so great, as tweets keep dicking up the page display):
What I get a kick out of is how reflexively most people USE their turn signals even when it’s obvious where they’re going or when there’s basically no one around. If I’m in a marked left or right turn lane, there’s no need to signal as it’s clear where I’m going. Now if there’s no marked turn lane and there’s someone behind me or coming in the opposite direction where it’ll make sense, I’ll signal my intent. Otherwise I never use them unless necessary.
Yes, that's the idea! Mr. Sailer, with plenty good commenters agreeing, wrote back (#39):
Developing habits like “I always turn on my left turn signal when I’m turning left” makes life a lot easier than having to think through the conditions of each left turn to come to a unique decision each time over whether or not to turn on your turn signal.
I disagree, as I guess that's the difference between a driver and a robot (no wait, robots may be smarter!) or at least someone who cares about compliance with the law over safety***. I'll get to safety in a bit with one example.

As thought of as a communication device, it becomes natural to use the turn signal when you need to “tell someone something”. (That could be, “Hey, I’m forking off here, so you can go ahead and get on the road” or “The reason I’m on the brakes, you freakin idiot tailgater, is that I’m turning right in 100 ft.” or “I’m turning left, and I’m waiting for you to go straight. If you are also turning left, then if I knew that I’d start my turn, but without your turn signal on, how do I know that, you worthless asshole.” Stuff like that.) That takes thoughtfulness, but also, one must be aware of the surrounding traffic. You should. If you're not, you are not a safe driver and the most exacting driving-school-written-test procedure isn't going to stop you from getting smashed into occasionally.

Long ago one night, I was riding in the front passenger's seat in a taxi with 2 colleagues in the back, and noticed the driver signaling a right turn about 200 yards before a big intersection at which he wanted to turn. There was an entryway from the right out of a shopping center to the big road we were on, about half-way from us to the big intersection. There was a car nosing out at said entryway obviously wanting to get on the road. Traffic was heavy, so that other driver was looking for any small space to allow him to start down the road. I could see what the problem was. That guy swung out onto the road and made our taxi driver hit the brakes hard. It was pretty close.

Of course, the other driver should have looked for more of a deceleration from our car (a type of judgment people are getting worse at, IMO) or even waited until we really started to turn. However, he may not have gotten onto the road then. Oh, yeah, an ensuing wreck would have been that other driver's fault. That's great for one's insurance bill, but it could still have been no fun at all. The thing is, an actual driver on our end wouldn't be in or close to such a wreck, as he would have been thinking, without a whole lot of brain effort "let me wait on the signal, as that guy there will get the wrong idea". Yes, that guy did.

We rode with a taxi driver, but not a real driver. The problem was not that he didn't know the exact distance from an intersection to activate his turn signal off that written test. The problem was that he wanted to drive thoughtlessly. Well, I can't go micromanaging a taxi ride, but I sure enough did see that coming that night.

That taxi ride wasn't the example from a few weeks back, though. I was going to end with that, but I'll put it in a separate small post later.

* Also, the way automation is going, the self-driving cars won't need turn signals, as they'll tell each other which way they're going. Those who actually steer their own cars will be relics driving "legacy vehicles".

** The latter is the situation with many black drivers, from what I've seen. It's not that they are too lazy to flip the lever, but to think about when to use it is either too much for them or too White for them.

*** That's a much bigger issue in bicycle riding. The law should be of almost NO concern for bike riders, as THE LAW is not going to save you from head injury.

Wednesday - July 28th 2021 4:05PM MST
PS PS regarding trailers. People are huge assholes to trucks pulling trailers. I always try to assume someone has been drafting six inches off my ass for the past mile (where I can't see him at all) and as soon as I slow down he's going to dart out and pass me on a double yellow line. It's happened too often to discount.
Wednesday - July 28th 2021 4:00PM MST
PS "CB, if you're talking about pedestrians, then that's another thing. You may not see them. Any car that you can't see, has a driver that can't see you either. Maybe you mean guys in the next lane in the blind spot - I'm all for being on the safe side there, of course."

Well, cars have more than one blind spot, and depending on the model, they can be of varying sizes. There's also simple inattention. We all like to think we're on-the-ball drivers, but it just isn't always so.

I pull big trailers a lot, so I do a lot of driving with enormous blind spots and often on less-than-ideal roads.
Wednesday - July 28th 2021 10:13AM MST
PS: CB, if you're talking about pedestrians, then that's another thing. You may not see them. Any car that you can't see, has a driver that can't see you either. Maybe you mean guys in the next lane in the blind spot - I'm all for being on the safe side there, of course.

Anyway, regarding the loops in the pavement, that's what I meant. Some will work with a motorcycle, but often one has to make the right and enough movements. I used to make sure I ride right straddling one side of one of the portions of the loop || to the road, and then go back and forth a tad. Once you stop, and you see no action for the lights, you can try doing a tight loop on the line.

On a bicycle, you can usually forget it, as far as triggering them. There is one loop that opens a gate that I need to get out of in one particular location. It used to be more sensitive, but they fucked with it. Now, I have to get off the bike and almost rub my bike on the ground right over it. It looks stupid, but there is no walk-through gate! The only other way is to climb the gate/fence, which I can, and then use my card to open it, walk in and get my bike. It's just that climbing the fence looks bad on camera, haha. "Can you all chill out? I'm not trying to break in, I was breaking out!"
Wednesday - July 28th 2021 9:37AM MST
PS "As for the red lights in the middle of the night, they made a law near me for motorcycles to be able to legally run them, after waiting 2 minutes or what-have-you during certain hours."

That's because some motorcycles don't activate the sensors on sensor-controlled lights. I don't know if they're magnetometers or what, but you'll sit there and the light will never change because the vehicle sensor never realizes you're there.
Wednesday - July 28th 2021 9:31AM MST
PS "What I get a kick out of is how reflexively most people USE their turn signals even when it’s obvious where they’re going or when there’s basically no one around. "

Using turn signals when there is "no one around" is a very good idea.

Because it's not the guy you know is around you're going to hit. It's the guy you don't know is around.
Rex Little
Tuesday - July 27th 2021 2:07PM MST
PS "THE LAW is not going to save you from head injury."

Or as I like to put it, if you and a car try to occupy the same space, your state's laws are on your side. The laws of physics. . . not so much.
The Alarmist
Tuesday - July 27th 2021 11:17AM MST

I’m one of those people who doesn’t signal when the direction is obvious; this is one area where my wife is a stickler for the rules, and she always tells me, “Signal!”

I got a license to drive in Germany, and you are even taught the correct sequence to checjk your mirrors. Germans use “right before left” rules in many places to determine who has right of way at an intersection rather than stop signs, where Americans gave up a long time ago and put up four-way stop signs quite liberally. Anyway, it annoyed my instructor that I kept looking one more time beyond the prescribed sequence to my left, so he asked me why I kept doing that, to which I replied, “That’s the side a dumb-assed American who doesn’t grasp the concept of “Rechts vor Links” is going to hit you.”
Tuesday - July 27th 2021 9:00AM MST
PS: Bill, that was funny the way you put it. Thanks. I have had occasional drivers that I just don't want to be anywhere near. I pass them quickly with as much extra room as I can give them!
Tuesday - July 27th 2021 8:58AM MST
PS: Adam, you have the same attitude as I do about it, but, yeah, in rural areas, one doesn't have to push these things.

As for the red lights in the middle of the night, they made a law near me for motorcycles to be able to legally run them, after waiting 2 minutes or what-have-you during certain hours. I guess it was before that time that my friend got a ticket for doing that. How long are you supposed to wait? I guess Steve would find a new route, but then that U-turn right there is bound to be highly illegal too, haha.

There's a middle aged guy that my son and I used to see stop at a red light near us, as we would walk to his school. The light is normally green for the crossing road. It will only turn green (for about 20 seconds or so), if someone triggers the induction loop from one side of our road or the other. I've lived here quite a while, so it's not like I don't know how it works. Well, this guy was standing on his bike (i.e. one foot on the road) just waiting, so I told him "hey, it won't ever change till someone comes. You've got to run the light."

This guy, to this day, will not say hello to me as I see him riding the same way (he probably still goes every day, but I don't go that way at a certain time anymore). He got pissed off at me for suggestion something - GOSH - illegal! I was also trying to make a point to my son that, basically, the law is not always, but can be, an ass... kind of like that guy, in fact.

Bill H
Tuesday - July 27th 2021 6:58AM MST
PS I was behind a guy on the freeway who turned on his right turn blinker some distance before every exit and then turned it off at the exit without exiting. Weird.

I finally decided he couldn't see very well and turned on the signal in case this was his exit, then turned it off as soon as he could read the sign and realized it wasn't.

Scary. I stayed behind him since I didn't want to try to pass a blind driver.
Adam Smith
Tuesday - July 27th 2021 6:57AM MST
PS: Good morning Robert, Mr. Moderator...

I agree...

(✓) G. Both E and F are correct.

It's situational. Blinkers used thoughtlessly are, as your example illustrates, potentially dangerous. I never trust other drivers to use their blinkers properly. (Everyone makes mistakes, they might be a teenage or elderly driver, having a bad day, overtired, texting, drunk, drugged, not know their blinker is on for whatever reason, etc.) I never pull out in front of an oncoming vehicle until I know for sure that they are slowing down and it's obvious that they are turning. Usually I just wait as I live in a rural area and I'm not in a hurry. There just isn't that much traffic around here. In a city one does not have the same luxuries.

I used to do a lot of driving late at night. When I did I often treated red lights like stop signs. If there was no one around and no one coming I saw no point in waiting for the green light. So I didn't. I have a feeling Steve would wait for the light to turn green, even if the light was stuck on red due to sensor malfunction or something. I'd imagine turning left or going straight through a red light is something many people would feel uncomfortable with, even when it is perfectly safe to do so.

Perhaps automaton is a better word than robot?

Tuesday - July 27th 2021 5:18AM MST
PS: It sounds like you are in good part of the country, Robert, from your last paragraph.

I've noticed that with all the electronics including LED lights, it's usually not just one particular light, but a "system" of some sort that fails now. Then there's still all that user error, as you mentioned.
Tuesday - July 27th 2021 4:39AM MST
PS: Lights (head/brake/turn-signal) working only on one side of the car is common around here. Also turn-signals that are stuck on is not unheard of. Plus on a lot of the smaller, less-frequented roads, people drive in the middle of the road to lessen the chance of encounters with deer. Add in pickups with trailers too wide for the narrower roads. Oh, and drunk/opioid driving. Fun times for all.

On the other hand, if traffic is a little heavy, people will slow down or stop to let you pull out. And if the weather is bad, and your car breaks down, people will stop to offer you water/blankets/etc.
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