‘That’s alright, don’t bother indicating. I can read your imbecilic mind!’
I often find myself coming all over Victor Meldrew when confronted with quite possibly the worst offence in the entire motoring universe. Failing to indicate.
Failing to signal is not just bloody rude. It’s dangerous. The US Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) estimates that US drivers fail to indicate an impressive two billion times a day, and that this causes up to two million crashes a year – twice the number of accidents caused by ‘distracted driving’, e.g. using a phone while driving.
Regardless of the risk, the failure to communicate your intentions to other road users makes life more difficult for everyone. On the motorway, the habit of so many drivers for changing lanes without indicating, or worse, indicating after changing lanes (‘See! I DID indicate!’), or not bothering to let you know they’re about to leave as they mysteriously decelerate, makes long journeys seem a lot longer.
And also, perhaps, lonelier. Indicators are most of the time the only way of communicating with other drivers.
Then there’s the endless fun to be had at a junction when someone likes to keep you guessing which way they intend to turn. Or, even better, they give no ‘indication’ that they are going to turn at all. Which is one of the reasons why failing to indicate is something that affects pedestrians – and their toes – as well as other road users.
And then we have the Brownian motion of today’s roundabouts. So apparently loathe are drivers to communicate their intentions that just closing your eyes and holding your breath and going ‘WHEEEE!’ seems to be the most popular approach.
In fact, the only time you can be absolutely sure that someone will use their indicators is when they want you to let them into a queue of traffic. It’s not an indicator, it’s more like a begging tin. (Sometimes followed by the brief use of hazard warning lights to communicate ‘Cheers Guv!’).
The good old Highway Code tells us that ‘signals warn and inform other road users, including pedestrians, of your intended actions’. For signaphobes of course it is other road users and pedestrians’ responsibility to guess their intentions.
It goes on:
‘Give clear signals in plenty of time, having checked it is not misleading to signal at that time’
‘Use them to advise other road users before changing course or direction, stopping or moving off.’
‘Cancel them after use.’
The number of people who don’t use their indicators seems to be almost matched by the number who leave them on after the rare occasion when they did use them.
Such is my detestation of failing to indicate that I do it when there are no other road users or pedestrians around. Partly because it’s possible that I have missed them, even when driving across, say, the Australian outback. But mostly because I know how easy it is to get in a bad habit – and how difficult it is to cancel one when started.
Frankly, at my stage of life it’s also a useful reminder to me that I intended to turn off at the next junction.
So imagine my horror when I realised in researching this piece that I have regularly been failing to indicate properly at roundabouts. For years. Probably decades.
I was aware that if you wanted to take the first exit to the left you indicated left on your approach. I was also aware that if you wanted to exit to the right, or going full circle you needed to indicate right – and then left after you have passed the exit before the one you want. And was of course scrupulous in my observance.
But – lawks! the embarrassment! – I didn’t realise that if you were going ‘straight over’ a roundabout (that is, the second exit) or taking any other ‘intermediate exit’ you needed to indicate left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.
I’m mortified by this discovery. By rights I should drag myself out of my own car and slap myself by the roadside.
But, then again, I’m sure other road users and pedestrians were able to read my mind.
Simon Mason is Head of Engagement for LeasePlan UK and has been responsible for New Business Engagement since 2002.
Simon has a keen interest in UK Politics, Current Affairs and Parking charges in Islington.
View Simon’s profile on Linked In here.