Turn Signals – Why Drivers Neglect Them & How It Causes Accidents

Turn Signals

Turn signals are automatic for most drivers.  Some drivers automatically activate blinkers before turns.  Others automatically ignore turn signals.

Everyone knows failing to use turn signals before a lane change or prior to making a turn is wrong.  Turn signals make up one of the basic rules new drivers learn when they first take driving lessons.  It’s the law.  Turn signal use is one of the rules of the road.

Nonetheless, many people get behind the wheel, take off and randomly change lanes, turn and otherwise change course without hitting the blinker.

What’s the harm of not using turn signals?  Why don’t people use turn signals? Distracted driving gets major public attention, as well it should.  Does failure to use turn signals cause more accidents?

These are just some questions over what accident experts consider one of the simplest but most effective safety tools.

Why Don’t Many Drivers Use Turn Signals?

Believe it or not there’s a national survey showing that 57% of all drivers in the United States admit they don’t use turn signals.  Their reasons reveal the worst of driver psychology:

  • Don’t have enough time: 42%
  • Just plain lazy: 23%
  • Might forget to turn it off: 17%
  • Change lanes too often to bother: 12%
  • Not important: 11%
  • Because other drivers don’t: 8%
  • Adds excitement to driving: 7%

The study, by Response Insurance Company, claims more men fail to use turn signals than women, 62% as opposed to 53%.  71% of young drivers, between the ages of 18 and 24, say they don’t use turn signals, compared to only 49% of older drivers, between 55 and 64 who don’t signal their turns.

Failing to use Turn Signals vs. Distracted Driving

Yet another study showed that failure to use turn signals causes millions of motor vehicle accidents every year in the U.S.  The Society of Automotive Engineers took a look at 12 thousand lane changing and turning vehicles.  Researchers found 25% of drivers fail to signal when turning and nearly half, 48% don’t use turn signals when changing lanes.

The bottom line on the study reveals the shocking truth that nearly two billion lane changes and turns go un-signaled every day.  That translates into approximately 750 billion instances of turn signal neglect annually.

The SAE study cites failure to use turn signals as the cause of two million car accidents in the U.S. every year.  At the same time, the U.S. Department of Transportation believes distracted driving causes 950-thousand motor vehicle accidents.  If so, that means turn signal neglect causes far more accidents than distracted driving.

Failure to use Turn Signals Endangers Pedestrians

Car accidents are bad enough.  But when drivers fail to signal then turn into the path of pedestrians the injuries far exceed fender bender status.

People crossing the street can do everything right, looking left right and every other way.   But if rogue drivers barge into their path without warning pedestrians can be seriously injured.  Pedestrian accidents and injuries caused by un-signaled drivers most frequently take place at crosswalks and other places designated for pedestrian crossings.

Serious pedestrian injuries often include including fractures, traumatic brain injury, sometimes called TBI, spinal injuries and worse.  Broken legs, hips and other fractures are common pedestrian injuries.  While drivers and passengers are at least somewhat protected by a car’s body, pedestrians have no protective barrier protecting them from the impact of a car or truck.

Do I have to use turn signals if I’m in a ‘turn-only’ lane?

Many intersections split into multiple lanes designated for vehicles heading straight ahead or those turning left or right only.  So if you intend to turn, and you are clearly in a lane marked for turning traffic only, you wonder whether the turn signal is really required.  This question actually went all the way up to the Supreme Court in the State of New Hampshire.  The court’s answer, as we reviewed in another blog article, was yes.

A quick check of rules of the road around the U.S. shows no exception to turn signal use in ‘turn only’ lanes.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  Sure drivers behind you can see the special signs and traffic light arrows marking a ‘turn only’ lane.  But what about pedestrians and vehicles approaching from the other directions?  Especially drivers from out of town or otherwise unfamiliar with that specific intersection.  Without your turn signal, they may have no idea what your vehicle might do.  Making pedestrians guess and possibly run for their lives sounds like an accident in the making.

Pedestrians, Turn Signals and Injuries

If you have been injured in a car accident due to the negligence of a motor vehicle operator, don’t go it alone with an insurance company only interested in minimizing what they have to pay.  Retain an experienced attorney versed in proving driver negligence and dealing with the world of insurance.

If a negligent driver who caused an injury by failing to use a turn signal lies and tells their insurance company that they did signal the turn, the insurance company will likely bolster that untruth and claim the signal was used.  The insurance company will defend, claiming it’s part of  their duty to defend.  That is only one reason to cut through the fog and retain an experienced attorney.  Insurance industry insiders themselves, not attorneys, have documented such tactics, often referred to as ‘Delay, Deny, Defend‘ practices.

The law offices of Andrew D. Myers have pursued personal injury claims for over 25 years in offices in Derry, New Hampshire and North Andover, Massachusetts.


Study: Turn Signal Neglect Now a Serious Safety Issue, Zak, Michael, Autoblog.com

Survey Explains Why Drivers Are Not Turned on By Using Signals, Insurance Journal, March 15, 2006.

Andrew Myers: Attorney Myers is a member of the American Association For Justice, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, New Hampshire Association For Justice, National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys & Rotary International. Legal services provided in Massachusetts (MA) and New Hampsire (NH).

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