Question: I think it's time to review the use of turn signals. It is unbelievable how many people turn their signals on at the same time they have begun to make a turn. By then, I know they are going to turn! Hopefully, those people will read your column.
Answer: You are right, signaling turns (or lane changes) is for the purpose of communicating to other motorists what you, as a driver, are going to do, not what you are doing. A lot of drivers signal their turns too late or don’t signal their turns at all.
Minnesota law (M.S.S. 169.19 Subdivision 5) requires a driver to “signal their intention to turn continuously during not less than the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.” This is something that I have talked a lot about on the radio often, but we do need to keep trying to get the message out to the motoring public. One problem is that drivers have developed some bad habits when they were young, and now those bad habits are hard to break!
Also found in M.S.S. 169.19 Sub. 5: “A person whose vehicle is exiting a roundabout is exempt from this subdivision.” This is because of the distance requirement (of the pre-signal of 100 feet) can’t be met in a roundabout.
In some cases, signaling 100 feet might not be good enough. Each driver must determine for each circumstance how far ahead of time they should signal, so we can all work together and avoid a crash. Using our signals consistently and correctly can aide in avoiding many crashes, some of which may be serious or fatal. Signaling before you apply the brake lights would help the driver behind you to see your signal easier and better.
Signaling too soon also can also be a problem, like when there is more than one place to turn in a short distance. Drivers have to use common sense and make sure to signal all turns and lane changes (including when passing). Also, remember to slow down at intersections – remove your foot from the accelerator and cover the brake so you are prepared to stop if necessary to avoid a collision.
Thanks for asking a great question.