The value of the blinker is priceless, reader says

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I like your work in highlighting problems and getting them solved. I wondered whether you could spread the word about the purpose of automobile turn signals. I am seeing more and more drivers not signaling until after they have already started braking and begun to turn. Signaling at that point is pretty useless. Could you write a short piece about the value of signaling ahead of an intended action? Thanks, Pat Caminiti Jones, Boulder Creek A: Thank you so much for the suggestion. This is a problem we all face every time we leave our homes -- whether we are in a car, on a bicycle or on foot. You’d think we’d have a handle on using turn signals considering they’ve been required for decades. Here you go: California Vehicle Code section 22107, a section represented in the California Driver Handbook, provides 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.” The driver handbook advises motorists to always use their turn signal their intentions to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians:
  • 100 feet before reaching the turning point.
  • Before changing lanes and at least 5 seconds before changing lanes at freeway speeds. Be sure to look over your shoulder to check your blind spot before making the lane change.
  • Before pulling next to or away from a curb.
  • Even when you don’t see any other road users around you, as you could cause a collision if there is indeed someone close enough to collide with.
If you plan to turn into a driveway beyond an intersection, start signaling when you are in the intersection. If you signal too early, other road users may think you plan to turn into the intersection and may enter into your path. Also, remember to turn off your signal after completing your turn. If your blinkers don’t work or your vehicle is so old it didn’t come with them, then hand signals are in order. First off, all hand signals must be made from the left side of your vehicle. To indicate your intentions to turn left, extend your left arm out your open window and hold it straight, horizontally beyond the side of the vehicle. For a right turn, extend your left arm out your window and bend it in a 90 degree angle so that your hand is pointed up. To say that you are stopping or slowing down, extend your left arm out your window and bend it so your hand points down. Breaking these signaling rules could earn the driver a fine of $146, not including an added court security fee and conviction assessment.
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