Steve Wallace: Drivers see red over poor signalling etiquette

Communicating to others what you intend to do behind the wheel is not only a courtesy, it’s a legal requirement.

Here’s what three readers have to say about it.

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Dean is a lawyer and has likely represented clients victimized by lack of communication behind the wheel. He has a disdain for drivers who come to a stop in the left lane at a red traffic light, sit through the cycle and signal their intention to turn left only when the light changes to green.

He laments the lost art of announcing one’s intention. Sloppy signalling seems to be on the increase. Many people in the legal profession must be offended by the number of court proceedings stemming from improper signalling etiquette.

Jim, who lives in Victoria, had some insightful comments about the necessity of doing a proper shoulder check before moving laterally or turning in traffic. He has a newer vehicle equipped with side-view cameras, which eliminate natural blind spots.

Drivers with this technology should not need to do shoulder checks. There is a way to set up the side-view mirrors to eliminate most of the blind areas over the shoulders.

The addition of convex mirrors and the wider angle of the side-view mirrors will make it possible to do a proper shoulder check with minimal head-turn action. This is very important for seniors, who often lack the necessary neck flexibility for shoulder checks.

Jim also mentioned the fact that race-car drivers do not take their eyes off the road during competition, except perhaps to do a very minor peripheral glance.

Despite all the technological advancements, shoulder checks are still required on driving tests in all passenger vehicles. The rear-view mirror eliminated the requirement of turning 180 degrees. This relatively new technological shoulder-view option should be treated the same way.

Kevin mentioned that the timing of signalling is most important. He is right to contend that a signal at high speed might panic a driver hidden in one’s blind spot. At high speed, it’s best to confirm that the space is available before indicating an intention to change lanes, since surprising another driver on a slippery road can result in disaster.

In busy low-speed metropolitan traffic, it is advisable to signal early in hopes others on the road will accommodate the lane change.

The use of a hand signal personalizes the driver’s intent. Other drivers are much more likely to notice and react positively when an actual person is asking for an opening.

Long-haul truckers often use four-way flashers when doing a low-speed hill climb. They want to draw attention to themselves, in case a driver approaching from behind at high speed does not notice that they are moving slowly.

These flashers can also be engaged to warn drivers who tailgate to back off, or warn of odd situations ahead. Perhaps there are animals on the road, a crash scene, flooding, black ice or any number of other unpredictable situations up ahead.

These situations involve not only being seen, but intent. There is value in just being seen. Many new vehicles light up automatically, both headlights and taillights. This illumination creates a sense of closeness not felt when these lights are not on.

Happy new year!

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a U of Manitoba graduate.

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