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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The turn signal, as explained by Mr. Manners

Ah, turn signals. The little used, oft misunderstood, or misused piece of automotive technology that comes standard on every vehicle on the road today.

It seems to have passed into the realm of quaintness, and is little seen except perhaps when a member of a kinder gentler generation leaves it on. However, I believe it could come back into fashion if we could adopt some simple rules and habits.

For purposes of this article, let's use the following vocabulary: mergee being those who are being merged into or might want to know your intent. Merger, the person who wants or will have to change lanes.

First, to me, it's for one of two things: I'm will be coming into your lane as dictated by merging lanes or another condition developing in my lane, or, I'd like to come in to your lane, so here's fair warning.

Let's explore uses under the first condition.

When a long line of cars meets another line of long cars, turn on your signal. Perhaps the folks in mergee lane will notice 36 cars of mergers with a long line of blinking lights on. This is their warning that today, like many other rush hour days, there are a lot of cars coming off the loop onto the main highway into downtown.

Surprise!

Or, there's a huge box full of babies in the road and we really should get over.

In the second case, the mergers would like to get out from behind Grammaw who is 10 miles an hour under the limit, or the low...ri...der who ain't using no gas now.

So it's either 'I need/have to' or 'I'd like to by your leave'.

Misuses:

When mergers signal, don't close up the gap between mergees that they were aiming for. You probably don't own this particular piece of road. They were courteous enough to signal, you should be courteous enough to not take that spot. Corollary: If they've had the signal on for 5-10 seconds indicating they are asking for permission to get over, make room somehow. Speed up, slow down, or get out of the way.

Don't turn on your signal and simultaneously stab over into the next lane right in front of the mergee. The light needs time to travel from your tail light and get processed by a brain, etc etc.

And of course, don't leave it on if you can. This ain't Motel 6, so there's no need to leave the light on for me.

Next time we'll talk about how tailgating in traffic makes it worse. Think 'brake, gas, brake, gas' and your reaction time for each. Now multiply that amount of time by hundreds of cars in a long line.

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