Turn signal communication: use that blinker

by kattiewampus

Raise your hand if one (or more) of these scenarios resonates with you:

You’re on the freeway in rush-hour traffic. The car in the lane next to you suddenly jumps over and cuts you off. You manage not to rear-end them, but you’re still a bit shaken and annoyed: if they had just signaled that they wanted to get over, you would have been happy to let them.

That same scenario happens and, as they pull into your lane, they turn on their blinker after the fact.

You’re on the freeway in rush-hour traffic yet again. The car in the lane next to you has their blinker on, signaling that they want to be in your lane. You’re trying to be a courteous driver, so you leave a space open in front of you to let them in. They have plenty of room to get over but, for whatever reason, continue to stay in their lane. Eventually, you get frustrated because you’re holding up traffic behind you by trying to leave a space open for them, so you accelerate and close the gap.

You’re coming up to a stoplight intersection. The light is green, but the car in front of you is easing off the gas. The light turns yellow and the car continues to slow so that it can turn right, never once signaling their intention. That costs you the precious seconds you needed to accelerate through the intersection, and now you’re stuck at a red light.

You’re driving through the main street of a neighborhood. The car in front of you starts to slow down for no apparent reason. Without bothering to signal or even move to the side so that through traffic can go around them, the car eventually makes a right turn. The line of accumulated cars behind them finally starts to accelerate.

How many times have we been behind or next to a driver that seems determined not to use their blinker? Or even found ourselves in the car with a driver like that? I have seen instances first-hand where the driver wanted to get over into a lane of heavy traffic and complained that no one was letting them over, even though they had not put on their blinker to alert the cars in the neighboring lane that they were trying to get over. In these instances, it seemed almost as if the driver wanted to wait until they could be sure that there was a space for them, and then use the blinker.

Now, maybe I’m behind the times here, but I’ve always understood the blinker as a way to communicate your intentions to other drivers around you (“intentions” referring to intended actions that have not yet occurred). I’ve never considered the blinker to be an after-the-fact form of explanation. Am I crazy here?

I’ve decided that it would be an awesome research project to study the link between people’s communication habits and turn signal habits.

Maybe you can tell a lot about a person by how effectively they utilize that turn signal. Do they take the initiative in communicating? Are they clear and up front about their intentions? Do they make it clear where they are going? Are they courteous to those around them? Are they focusing on their own safety as well as the safety of those around them? Or are they just looking to get ahead as quickly as possible, without paying attention to who gets hurt in the process?

Are they pushy?

Are they totally oblivious?

Are they too busy checking their phone to see what’s right in front of them?

I seriously feel like I’ve stumbled upon something big here: predicting the success of your relationships based on the correlation between your driving patterns and communication patterns. I’m going to conduct a case study, write a book about my findings that will quickly become a best-seller, retire early, and travel the world.

Meanwhile, the next time you’re driving, think about what your driving habits might be indicating about your communication and relational awareness.