Sunday, February 24, 2008

Driving Me Crazy - This Isn't Any Signal

"This isn't any signal. It's a direct statement. If it's a signal, fine." - George H. W. Bush, as reported in New York Times, Mar 10, 1980, p B10

On most cars that I have been in, there is a stick coming out of the left-hand side of your car's steering column which I'm certain is gathering dust in some people's cars. It's the lever that operates the turn signals, otherwise more cleverly - and properly - known as "directional indicators", on account of they're for indicating which direction you intend to take your car next. And that's the whole key right there. Until you use your turn signals (I'll use turn signals if it makes everyone happier, until I have a point to make), people are going to expect that you're going to continue what you're doing, especially if what you're doing is just driving along at a steady speed in the lane you're currently in. [And unless otherwise indicated, and as will be the usual standard for this series, it is assumed that the roads are clear and dry and the weather conditions are favorable for driving. So none of these, "What if it's raining?" retorts. We'll cover that another time.]

And that brings us to a good tip about using turn signals. There's a right way to indicate to the driver behind you (let's call him "Me") that you're about to turn into your driveway, and there's the way too many people who live near me do it. The trick is to remember what the purpose of the turn is signal is. (I'll give you hint: It has to do with "indicating" a "direction".) Here comes the next rule:

Wayne's Driving Rule #2
The proper sequence for making a turn off the main road is:

1. Engage the turn signal (the correct turn signal) about ten to fifteen seconds before you make the turn, but at least five seconds before you hit the brakes.

2. After a pause of about five seconds, begin applying the brakes.

3. Then slow down sufficiently (it's okay if you have to come to a complete stop because of those discourteous people having the audacity to be coming from the opposite direction) to safely make the turn without turning it into the slowest possible maneuver ever made by man and machine.

You see, it really doesn't do anybody any good if you wait until you've already hit the brakes and started turning your wheel to flip on the turn signal telling Me (the driver behind you) that you're about to make a turn, when the fact that you are in the process of making that turn already gave it away. How much help do you think flipping on the signal last is going to do?

And by all means, do use that signal if you're doing anything that would come across as "unexpected" to the non-psychic behind you. (Me, again.) That includes pulling over to the side of the road. That would be one of those excellent occasions where some way of telling the guy behind you (Me) that he can swing around you and get on with his life would be appreciated. It's just like you're turning into a driveway, except you're not actually turning into a driveway. But you still have to put on the signal (I'm guessing it's going to be to the right), then put on the brakes, then slide off to the side of the road, preferably far enough off so that your car won't be sticking out into the lane.

But you know, turn signals aren't just for indicating a complete change in direction (such as perpendicular to the one you were going). They're also good for letting the cars around you driving at speeds in excess of 65 MPH (and the legal speed limit) that you're considering cutting over in front of the car moving up swiftly in the lane to your left. (Me again.) Now, in these cases, it isn't always necessary to hit the brakes, but you still want to turn on that signal a few seconds before you make the actual maneuver. Again, once your car has already swung over in front of mine, causing me to either brake fiercely, swear loudly, crap pungently, or perhaps some combination of all three, what's the goddamn point in putting on your turn signal then? It's not like you're preparing me for something. The best thing is to glance in your sideview (and rearview) mirrors, turn your head to check your blind spot, hit the signal, then wait a beat or two before making your move. And for crying out loud, if you're going to move over into a lane of traffic that's going faster than you were, do remember to hit the gas and speed up. (Remember Wayne's Driving Rule #1.) Otherwise there was no point in moving over in front of the impatient asshole coming up hard on your ass. (Me.)


Anonymous said...

Another great one, Wayne. Signaling does seem to sort a special occasion thing these days. The thing I can't stand is someone using the WRONG signal. Or leaving it on, and continuing to drive straight. I've learned to give all other drivers a wide berth. I just don't want them near me.

Looking forward to your next installment!


Wayne A. Schneider said...

Thanks, Zooey. I have decided that there will be more. There's "The Gapper", "The Pokey", "The Zippy", "The 50-50 Club" as well as situational things to discuss. I appreciate the encouragement.