Use your f*cking turn signals

Use your fucking turn signals, people.

I shouldn’t have to say anything more.  Actually, I really shouldn’t even have to say that, but apparently, I do, because there are astonishing numbers of people who rarely or never seem to use their fucking turn signals.

This is a pet peeve of mine (obviously), but I think it’s a legitimate one.  Turn signals are one of the simplest of all the buttons, lights, switches, levers, and knobs in your car, but the way many people approach their use, you’d think that activating them required a degree in rocket science.  It’s harder to steer than it is to use your turn signal.  It’s harder to use the gas, it’s harder to use the brake, it’s harder start the effing car.  It’s way harder to turn on the radio and/or change stations, or (god forbid) to text and drive.  There’s absolutely no excuse for not signaling.

Maybe you think it’s not that important, or not always that important.  Maybe, for instance, you think that if you’re in the left turn lane at a light, it’s obvious that you’re going to turn left.  And most of the time, that’s what you’re going to do, and everyone’s right to assume so.  But what if there’s a driver out there who’s confused, and doesn’t realize that he’s in the left turn lane?  What if he’s just going to go straight ahead once the light changes, and potentially run into the people opposite him who are trying to turn?  Given that so many people fail to use their signals, no one would take a second glance at such a confused and potentially dangerous driver while he waited for the light to change.  But if everyone routinely did use their signals, then seeing such a person not use them would call attention to him, and might make other drivers more cautious, watching to see just what he was going to do next.

Let’s be clear:  If you don’t use your turn signal—even just for changing lanes—then you’re an asshole.

But you’re worse than an asshole.  We can all be assholes at times, after all; it’s practically unavoidable, and not something to lose too much sleep about.  But if you don’t signal, you’re increasing the already non-negligible danger to the other people out there on the road with you, because they are less likely to know, and to be able to prepare for, whatever you’re going to do next.

Driving is already by far the most hazardous thing that most Americans do on any regular basis.  For most of us, it’s probably the most dangerous thing we do in our lives.  We’re barreling down the road at speeds at which we never evolved to travel, in massive, heavy metal boxes.  We do it so often that we think little of it, and we somehow expect other people to understand telepathically what we’re going to do next.  But telepathy, at a minimum, requires a functioning brain, which many non-signalers don’t seem to possess.

It’s so easy to signal; it requires the motion of one finger.  The control is right there next to the steering wheel, on which (I hope) your hands already rest.  If it’s too much to ask for you to use it—even just for changing lanes—then you’re a pathetic little smear of slime who has no business operating heavy machinery.

I don’t know what percentage of the thirty-some-odd-thousand traffic fatalities in the U.S. every year* are attributable to failure to signal.  Maybe it’s a small fraction.  But it is also, surely, the single most preventable subset of road accidents, because it is so damned easy to use your fucking turn signal.

I don’t care if you want to put yourself in danger; that’s your call.  If your life is worthless to you, then it’s hardly going to be of any value to me—except maybe as a potential organ donor.  But if you’re willing to increase the danger, however slightly, to innocent others on the road, because you’re too pathetically, despicably, inexcusably lazy to use your fucking turn signal, then you’re as bad as any drunk driver, and should be treated as such.  Indeed, your failure to signal isn’t much more acceptable than if you started randomly—once a day, say—to fire off a handgun in some random direction at a random elevation.  Most of the time, you would never hit anyone; most of the time you wouldn’t kill anyone.  But if you kept doing it long enough, eventually you would hurt and/or kill someone, and there would be no excuse for it, and no reason why it should be considered an acceptable risk.

Of course, you wouldn’t be allowed to carry out such a shooting spree for long.  If you reliably kept doing your small arms practice where other people were, you would rapidly be found and stopped.  Most likely, you would be arrested; possibly, you might be committed.  You might even be killed.

We don’t take the attitude toward non-signalers that we would to random shooters partly because they are simply ubiquitous.  We also, many of us, know that we don’t always use our own signals, so if we’re going to have the police pull non-signalers over and treat them like drunk drivers—which I think they should—then we too may end up spending a night or two in jail, and paying hefty fines.  But maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  Maybe after having spent eight hours in the “non-signalers’ tank” and forking over several hundred dollars, a driver would be more careful going forward, and would be absolutely sure to make the ridiculously minor effort to signal before he or she turned or changed lanes.

After all, alcohol can be an addiction, but failing to signal can’t be…can it?

I find myself sometimes yearning for the advent of universally self-driving cars, because we apes often don’t seem particularly well-suited to the task.  But until that time comes, I will just say this:  If you find it too difficult to remember to signal, or if it’s just too onerous for you to flick your third or fourth finger out and push on the signal lever before you plan to change lanes or turn, then you are clearly not physically, mentally, or emotionally qualified to drive a car when other people are around.  Perhaps it would be better—for everyone else, if not for you—if you removed yourself from the presence of your fellow humans, and took to the Sahara, or to Antarctica, where you are less likely to harm others by being a pathetically lazy and irresponsible piece of shit.

Or perhaps you should just use your fucking turn signal.


*to say nothing of the countless non-fatal accidents, leading to economic costs, and often to injuries which, though not fatal, can have lifelong consequences; we were, after all, never built to move at thirty, fifty, or seventy plus miles per hour.

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