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Study: Driving Without Signals Causes More Accidents Than Distracted Driving

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No turn signal

The photographer, speaking for the driver in front of him, writes: "I'm a (expletive deleted) in an Escalade who doesn't know how to use a turn signal."

A first-of-its-kind Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) study finds that driving without using directional signals causes more car accidents than distracted driving. According to the study, driving without signals causes an estimated two million crashes per year, as compared with 950,000 traffic accidents that the U.S. Department of Transportation says are likely caused by various forms of distracted driving.

As Michael Zak reports for AOL Autos in his article “Study: Turn Signal Neglect Now a Serious Safety Issue”:

SAE observed a total of 12,000 lane-changing and turning vehicles and concluded 25 percent of drivers neglected to signal when turning and a whopping 48 percent neglected to do so when changing lanes. Applying these percentages to U.S. drivers as a whole translates to 750 billion instances of turn signal neglect per year — or more than 2 billion instances per day, according to the study.

Richard Ponziana, who authored the report and is the president of RLP Engineering in Dayton, OH, said: “The turn signal is one of the very original automotive crash prevention devices and this simple driver-to-driver communication device remains extremely effective, but only when it is accurately displayed as required by law.”

According to anecdotal evidence, Paul A. Eisenstein writes for the MSNBC blog Bottom Line, police do little to enforce laws that require drivers to use directional signals, “less than they devote to [enforcing laws on] speeding, or running stop signs and red lights.”

The study says there is a simple solution to the problem of drivers who don’t bother to use their vehicle’s directional signals. A system called the “Smart Turn Signal” would flash a “friendly reminder” to such drivers when its sensors find that their vehicles are changing lanes or starting to make a turn. And the system would also automatically turn off a directional signal when it detects the vehicle has finished changing lanes or turning.

Ponziani said a “Smart Turn Signal” system would cost less and take up less space in a vehicle than the mechanical trip mechanisms that are currently in vehicles. “This breakthrough represents a perfect opportunity to significantly reduce multi-vehicle crash rates, reduce vehicle cost and make driving a lot more friendly and courteous across the U.S.,” he said.

In one of the more than 700 comments readers posted below the MSNBC article, someone named “John E-847749” lamented the state of affairs, and wrote the following: “How long before all the old vehicles are replaced on the road and only vehicles with the smart signal system exist? Not in my life time that’s for sure.”

Fred Craven, another commenter to the same article, suggested an improvement to existing signal systems:

Why can’t we have turn signal flashers that are loud enough to be heard? That way we’d be able to know when the flasher is going, without having to look at the indicators. Drivers have enough going on in their vision as it is. Just driving safely requires observance that is close to ( if not already in) distracted driving (What do we pay attention to now?). If the flasher is loud enough to be heard easily, drivers won’t have to look at the indicators to tell the signals are flashing; they’d be able to hear them.

Image by hotmayo (geo dee), used under its Creative Commons license.


2 Responses to “Study: Driving Without Signals Causes More Accidents Than Distracted Driving”


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