False Signals

Hand waving out of car window

Today, I’m going to revisit the subject of signals.

Signals can take the form of electronic turn signals fitted to vehicles, things such as headlight flashes, or arm/hand signals.

In an earlier post about turn signals and signal reinforcement, I talked about the obvious importance of giving good, early signals to other road users.

Well, it turns out that sometimes, the very best thing to do with another road user’s signal is to ignore it!

Further, there are situations where it is prudent to avoid giving a signal to another road user. Let’s look at some examples:

You may remember in my previous post about turn signals that we shouldn’t act on the strength of a signal alone. I suggested that the only thing a turn signal proves is that the bulb is working.

Scooter waiting to exit junction with car approaching from the left with turn signal on The obvious example of this is shown here: we are waiting at a junction to turn left into a road, and there is a vehicle approaching from our left on that road – with a turn signal indicating right.

That car driver could have left that signal on from a previous turn, or could even be intending to turn right _after_ the junction.

So, we will wait until we actually see the car begin its turn before making any move.

Let’s now reverse this situation as an example of where I would refrain from giving a turn signal:

Scooter approaching a junction where a car is waiting to exit on the right. The scooter intends to pass the junction, but enter the gas station immediately after the junction In this scenario, I’m intending to turn into the gas station ahead.

There is a car waiting to exit the junction on my right.

If I was to give a right turn signal at this point, it would be literally inviting the driver to pull out in front of me because he/she may (understandably) assume that I’m going to turn right into the junction.

So, I will wait until I am at least in front of that car before putting on my turn signal.

If there were any vehicles following me, I would consider reinforcing that right turn signal with an arm signal as I haven’t been able to give them as much advanced warning as I would have liked. Remember IPSA and TUG. TAKE information, GIVE information and USE information.

Invitations to Disaster – The “Unofficial” signals.

These are the hand waves, the headlight flashes, the nods, the “waving you past” or any other motion that a creative mind can come up with.

We see this all the time, and it’s very tempting to do it ourselves – and to act on it when others do it. But, beware! They can be invitations to disaster.

It’s important to remember that we – and we alone – are responsible for every action we take when out on the road.

This reminds me of the saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Let me demonstrate this with a scenario that happened to me just a few weeks ago. I thought at the time that if I had simply acted on the drivers well-intentioned gesture, It would have led to a very miserable day:

I was attempting to exit left from a gas station which was very close to traffic lights.

The well-intentioned driver stopped short of my position, and,  using an “unofficial” signal, waved for me to come out.

The prudent thing to do in this situation is to thank the driver, then assess the situation as if no such invitation has been given.

Fortunately, this is exactly what I did, and edged out using extra vigilance precisely because another road user had invited me to make a manoeuvre.

Sure enough, there was a driver creating his own filter lane (using the divider before the filter lane has actually started), and was bearing down at a great rate of speed.

Had I have simply taken the driver’s invitation, it would have been a disaster.

Photo of crash which happened at this spot in the same way [UPDATE 2012-5-15] I just passed the same gas station I was exiting in the example above.  There was a crash being sorted out. I made a point to stop and talk to the driver.

Sure enough, it was exactly the same scenario – except this driver did take the invitation from another driver that it was clear to go… It wasn’t. There was a lady making her own filter lane. His car is a write-off.

This is just one example of many where it can be seen that an invitation from any other road user that it is safe to execute a manoeuvre is worth precisely the paper it’s written on!

If a road user “invites” you to perform a manoeuvre, take that as a trigger to practice extra vigilance. For it is a hazard in itself.

Similarly, we should resist the temptation to give other road users (or pedestrians) “invitations to disaster”. The only proper user of flashing headlights and sounding of horns is to alert other drivers of your presence. The only proper use of hand signals is to signal your intention to vary from your current course.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

As strange as it may feel, if you decide that you would like to let another driver out of, say, a junction, simply stop and make eye contact. Resist the temptation to act as their “eyes and ears”, or to make any other indication that it is safe for them to go.

It is their responsibility to decide to make the manoeuvre, and theirs alone.

Similarly, I have sometimes seen a practice that makes me nervous when people are riding in groups.

One of the riders will commence an overtake – a pass, and will hold his or her arm up to signal to the riders behind that it is safe for them to follow.

In my opinion, this definitely comes under the category of “invitation to disaster”. To me, that would constitute a hazard and cause me to make the decision to not pass at that point.

Again, every move you make should be of your own volition and after having been carefully considered in the absence of any “invitation” from another road user.

This may take a little effort to break some well-ingrained habits, but it will pay dividends in keeping you safe, and that’s what this is all about!

Until next time, Scoot Safely!

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