Study suggests turn signal neglect worse than distracted driving

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Turn signal

Neglecting the turn signal could be far more dangerous than distracting driving. Photo Credit: Overlaet/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Contrary to popular belief, using a turn signal is not a courteous flourish in most places but rather is legally mandated. However, many people believe the opposite and a Society and Automotive Engineers study suggests turn signal neglect is more dangerous than distracted driving.

The second lever

There is a lever located on either the right or left of the steering wheel that sometimes gets neglected. The lever in question is not the one that controls the windshield wipers, but rather the turn signal lever. Virtually every newspaper in the country has published letters and editorials about citizens failing to use turn signals to the rage and consternation of other motorists.

The turn signal indicator legally has to be used in conjunction with making a turn or changing lanes; nanny state laws may be annoying, but having to pay a traffic ticket is worse than remembering to use a turn signal.

There may be good reason for both the annoyance of other citizens and the lack of humor among law enforcement. The Society of Automotive Engineers, according to AutoBlog, found that turn signal neglect causes more accidents than distracted driving.

Worse than cell phones

The SAE study took a sample of 12,000 vehicles, which were observed to catalog whether the driver used the turn signal indicators while changing lanes or turning or left them on after using them. The study found that of those 12,000 vehicles, 25 percent did not use their indicators while turning. A further 48 percent of observed vehicles did not use or neglected signals while changing lanes.

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The SAE says based on the results of the study, an estimated 750 billion instances of failure to signal occur daily, based on the rates of turn signal neglect observed in the study. The SAE notes in the press release that “obviously, not every absent turn signal results in an accident” but that it increases the risk of a crash.

The SAE estimates up to 2 million accidents per year are caused by neglecting turn signal use, more than double that of the number of accidents that are said to be caused by distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 950,000 accidents are caused by distracted driving annually.

Solution suggested

The SAE, according to AutoGuide, is suggesting that “Smart Signal” technology be incorporated into automobiles. The proposed Smart Turn Signal system would notify drivers of failure to use turn signals and turn off automatically after an appropriate distance.

According to PR Web, the system would require very little in terms of engineering, as it would easily tie into stability control systems, which are now mandatory in new cars. It would also allow for the turn signal trip mechanism to be done away with, which the SAE notes has not been changed since its introduction in 1940.





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