As a responsible driver, you must know the importance of using turns or hand signals. These signs are a way of ensuring both your safety and the others on the road. Hence, as soon as you start driving, you must know the signals and use them wherever needed. Also, once you start using them, use them regularly.
Not knowing the proper use of turns or hand signals while driving makes it difficult for the other drivers to know which way you’re heading. As a result, they may make a wrong turn or move, leading to an accident or collision. You must have a basic understanding of the signals to avoid such mishaps.
History of hand signals
Before electric signals, drivers depended on using hand signals to communicate with the other drivers when they had to take a turn. In 1907, Percy Doughlas- Hamilton came up with the idea of using a device that converted hand signals to digital signals. Later, many others developed devices that converted signals into electronic signs.
In 1939, Buick created cars with ‘flashing turn signals.’ Even though the drivers easily accepted these signals, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the Department of Transportation decided to use hand signals. These signals also help people get better at driving over a period.
Why should I use turns or hand signals while driving?
You’ll need to use hand signals, especially when driving a car rarely. However, here are a few instances where you may have to use turns or hand signals.
When you’re brake lights, don’t work properly
One of the main reasons your brake lights don’t work properly is periodic maintenance. The light bulbs expire over time, and you may have to replace them immediately. In the meantime, you must use hand signals while driving. Ideally, use the hand signals at least 100 feet in advance.
If you’re riding a bicycle
Since bicycles don’t have brake lights or indicators, you must use hand signals for communication. Using hand signals while riding a bicycle reduces the likelihood of accidents. Hand signals are also one of the safest ways of communicating your directions to other vehicles if you’re riding a bicycle. Furthermore, knowing the right signals can help you safely drive through roads with heavy traffic.
When you’re riding a motorcycle
You must learn to use turns or hand signals while riding as a group. These signals will keep you safe while driving on roads with heavy traffic. Also, one of the significant risks of riding a motorcycle is that you never know when your brake lights will go off. Therefore, use your turns or hand signals wisely during your ride.
Types of turn hand signals
Here are some important turn-hand signals you must know if you drive in the USA.
Before changing your lanes, indicate a left turn before taking a left. To indicate a left turn, extend your arm out of the window and hold your arm straight. Also, keep your elbow steady, and your palm should face forward. See that you keep your left hand steady without losing your right hand’s steering balance.
You must point your arm out to the right side to make an ‘L’ shape to make a right turn. See that the ‘L’ shape is clear to the other drivers and that you form a 90-degree with your arm. Ensure you clear your right turn indication on the road, or the other drivers may confuse the sign for another indication.
Besides making turns, you must also use hand signals to indicate whenever you plan to stop or slow down. Also, if you’re slowing down, maintain the signal for some time, so the drivers behind you understand the indication. To indicate a slowdown, stick out your hand outside the window and bend it towards your direction to 90 degrees. Now, keep rotating your hand slowly.
Maintain this signal for some time so that the other vehicles behind you allow you to slow down and eventually stop.
At what speed can you turn?
You can turn at a speed of 15-20 mph if you’re taking a left and 10-15 mph if you’re taking a right, keeping an eye on the road and the traffic.
Can I brake while turning?
You need not bring your car to a complete stop while turning. However, you may have to get your car to a slow speed and keep an eye on the other vehicles behind you.
When should I not use turns or hand signals while driving?
Turns and hand signals are two of the most important indications to follow while driving on busy roads. However, there are some situations when it is important to use turns or hand signals, such as:
- Driving on straight roads– Unless you plan to take turns or stop immediately, you needn’t use turns or hand signals.
- When driving on an empty road– If the road you are driving on isn’t facing heavy traffic, you may not use turns or hand signals.
- If you’re making minor driving adjustments, taking a slight left or right while driving, you needn’t use any indications.
Why is signaling important while driving?
Signaling is important to let other drivers know about your next move so that they may drive accordingly. For example, if you slow down and show a left indication, it also helps the driver behind you to allow you to make your move and plan on theirs. Signaling also gives sufficient time to manage the traffic and prevents delays when driving on roads with heavy traffic.
Common mistakes to avoid while using turn signals
The following are some of the common mistakes you need to look for and avoid while using turns or hand signals:
- Not making a complete stop– Most drivers simply slow down and stop the car.
- Hazy lane changing– Changing lanes without giving a cue also puts the other drivers at risk. Hence, you must familiarize yourself with the lane-keeping technology along with understanding signals.
- Late signals– If you plan to take a turn or change your driving direction, indicate the change well ahead. Usually, drivers give the indication quite late.
- Incorrect positioning- Many drivers cut corners or stand ahead of white lines before making turns. Instead, four-wheelers must stand behind the white line, give way to pedestrians, and two-wheelers before moving ahead with the signals.
- Not checking the rear-view mirrors- Before using turn or hand signals, check through your rear-view mirrors to see if vehicles are ready to move in any other direction. Drivers usually don’t follow this rule, thus leading to reckless driving.
- Non-responsiveness to signals or traffic lights- Hand signals and traffic lights ensure your driving safety. Bring your vehicle to a complete stop on a stop sign, and move your vehicle immediately, seeing the green signal.
Legal requirements while using turns or hand signals
According to law 1926.129 of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration Department, drivers must adhere to the following legal requirements.
- Drivers must use either hand signals, voice, or other audio signals to communicate their next moves.
- Anyone who uses hand signals must know how to use them correctly to ensure effective communication and avoid confusion.
- A driver must use the turn in other drivers’ visibility areas.
- All drivers must consistently use turns or hand signals for as long as they drive. If he cannot use the signals, he must stop at a safe distance, resolve the issue, and continue to drive.
Can I use turn signals in parallel parking?
Yes, you must use turn signals in parallel parking to ensure the safety of vehicles behind you.
Penalties for ignoring turns and hand signals
Since turns and hand signals are a language of communication between drivers on the road, you must consistently follow them. Ignoring these signs, drivers must pay the penalty of $150 or undergo 15 days of imprisonment, depending on the degree of fault.
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