Dear Street Smarts,
Q: I noticed lately that only about 25 percent of the vehicles on the road now days use turn signals when making turns, changing lanes, merging, etc. I even see police, fire, and parking control vehicles not using their signals. Is it optional now days?
David McCollum, Watsonville
A: Using turn signals to tell others on the road — whether on wheels or foot — your intentions to change direction has been a law since Sept. 18, 1959.
California Vehicle Code section 22107 reads that, ” No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.”
Specifically, people are to “always signal when turning left or right, changing lanes, slowing down, or stopping,” according to the California Driver Handbook, that book all drivers are supposed to read in order to pass the written version of the DMV’s driver test when they are first applying for their license and sometimes to go back to renew.
When vehicle turn signals don’t work or “if bright sunlight makes the signal lights hard to see, also use hand-and-arm signals,” the driver handbook continues on to say. These hand signals are also used by motorcyclists and bicyclists: to turn right, place left arm out the driver’s side window and raise up into a 90 degree angle; when slowing, stick arm out the window and drop hand to a 90 degree angle; and to turn left, erect straight left arm out of your window.
According to the handbook, turn signals should be used:
⦁ During the last 100 feet before reaching the turning point. Make sure the area is clear of people and objects before completing the turn by
⦁ Before changing lanes or making a turn.
⦁ At least five seconds before making lanes changes on a freeway.
⦁ Before pulling next to or away from the curb.
⦁ Whenever you change directions.
⦁ Even when you do not see other vehicles. A vehicle you do not see may suddenly appear and hit you.
Learn about this and other traffic laws by perusing the vehicle code or driver handbook online at www.dmv.ca.gov.