"Giving a signal is not an instruction to other road users, it's a signal of our intentions which helps them then make good decisions."
Signaling incorrectly or not at all is a certain trigger for an angry response from other road users and pedestrians alike. You may have heard the stereotype insult that BMW or Audi drivers don't signal, but the reality is that drivers of any vehicle are just as guilty. Failure to signal properly at roundabouts is one of the key reasons learner drivers struggle when trying to predict the actions of the other drivers.
The expected standard is to give the correct signal, properly time this signal and in a situation where it is necessary to signal.
The 'correct' signal depends on which direction you intend to go, 'properly timed' means that it's not given so early that it has the potential to confuse someone or so late that they can't respond in time and 'where necessary' means when it is essential to avoid causing danger or potential danger.
If you get this wrong, then confusion can lead to mistakes and mistakes can lead to collisions. This is why other people often react angrily.
The actions of a good driver will be easily predicted. It is essential to use the Mirrors, Signal, Manoeuvre routine.
The use of signals is directly linked to situational awareness. Without this awareness it is simply left to chance whether you get it right or not. Before taking any action which involves changing speed, direction or signaling you will need to check all around so that you can make a good decision.
I'm often told by pupils who are practicing with family or friends that they've been asked why they aren't signaling every time they move away from the side of the road or before pulling up to park. There seems to be an impression that this standard has somehow changed since they were taught to drive. The standards have been the same for decades - if you look around and you are sure that a signal is unnecessary, then there is no need to give one.
Simply signaling every time regardless of the situation leads to lazy or ineffective observations and doesn't help learners develop a good sense of situational awareness.
A good driver will look all around, assess the risks and the need for a signal, and then give a signal where necessary and at the correct time.
"My Dad says I need to signal every time I pass a parked car."
Based on what you've just read, what's your answer to this question?
It's also important to remember that signals aren't just for other drivers. Pedestrians also need good information to avoid danger. Another common question is "do I need to signal at a junction where it says turn left only?"
The answer to this is "If you think it might help someone decide not to cross the road, then it's necessary"
We can't assume that a pedestrian is aware that it's a left turn only junction.
Whilst we have been focusing on directional signals it's important to remember that there are other signals we can use. We have brake lights warning that we are slowing or stopping; we have reverse lights warning that we are reversing; we have hazard warning lights used to warn that we are causing a temporary obstruction or are slowing rapidly on a motorway or national speed limit dual carriageway and of course we still have arm signals at our disposal should we feel the need to support other signals.
One other less obvious signal of our intentions is to position correctly, this helps others interpret what we intend even if they can't see our signals. This will be the subject of a future blog.
Whichever signal you intend to use, you will need to be situationally aware before you use it.
On your next lesson, ask yourself "Do I need to signal? Which signal do I need? When should I signal?"
For more information about the use of signals, purchase a copy of The Official Guide to Driving - The Essential Skills