By Joseph Bell
A study released over the summer has confirmed what I think a lot of the population already knew: Turn signal neglect is causing millions of crashes each year, with no end in sight.
According to a study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers [SAE] in 2012, 12,000 lane-changing and turning vehicles were observed and a whopping 25 percent of those drivers were incompetent to the point where they were unable to use their turn signals, and 48 percent, nearly half of those observed, did not use a turn signal when changing lanes or failed to turn the signals off. That is beyond asinine.
According to the study, the figures total two billion times in a day that drivers fail to properly use signals; that equates to roughly 730 billion times in a year.
Because of drivers' idiocy to not properly use turn signals, the SAE study concludes that the problem is directly responsible for two million vehicle accidents a YEAR, more than doubling the 950,000 figure that the U.S. Department of Transportation released for "distracted driving" crashes.
I cannot even fathom what would be a viable excuse for not using a turn signal? Perhaps the device to engage the signal is too far away? No, right next to the driver's hand… does the device weigh a thousand pounds?… no, probably an ounce of resistance… are drivers rebelling against society and law enforcement officials, or some other farce along those lines? I sincerely doubt it.
When it comes right down to it, it appears many drivers are ignorant and lazy. And those traits have cost a lot of people a lot of money, as this study has been accepted as fact.
So what to do about it?
Much like a reminder system that alerts a driver and passengers when a seat belt system is disengaged, many car manufacturers are thinking along the same lines for turn signals.
The study from the SAE suggests the "Smart Turn Signal," a system that would "automatically shut off a turn signal, likely by timing out after a set delay or by detecting when a vehicle has finished changing lanes-- much as today's cars automatically cancel the signals after making a turn at an intersection."
Furthermore, for those of the moronic variety who just refuse to use their turn signals, the system would have a "friendly" reminder similar to the seat belt reminders. The "Smart Turn Signal" system would reportedly actually cost less than the "current mechanical trip mechanism" and reduce vehicle crashes, repair costs and insurance premiums.
This is what we've been reduced to: If drivers aren't intelligent and courteous enough to utilize their turn signals, car manufacturers will just make it so any idiot can drive regardless or whether or not they're smart enough to remember to use their turn signals.
While I support this system in new vehicles, I don't think it's enough. The state of Pennsylvania levies stiff monetary fines for serious violations to the vehicle code, but I don't think we've even scratched the surface.
The wonderful state of Pennsylvania maintains a point system for people who have a license to drive; the list for offenses ranges from failure to stop for a red light (3 points) to improper passing on a hill (4 points) to careless driving (3 points). Nowhere on the list is failure to use turn signals. While no points are put on a driving record for a conviction, the guilty driver will usually pay a fine and costs of about $109.50, but will not receive any points.
That's a fine of $109.50 for an act that causes approximately two million crashes a year. Again, another stupid miscue. I find the exclusion from the points list to be appalling, especially considering the astronomical number of violators as evidenced by the SAE study.
It is my sincere hope that in the future, the fine is doubled and the violation introduced in the vehicle code as having at least two points for failure to properly use turn signals.
Furthermore, I am strongly opposed to any law enforcement officer letting anyone go with a "warning." That is bogus; if you break the law when driving, whether it's speeding or failure to use turn signals, you should be getting slapped with a monetary fine. There should be no "warning" about it.
If the realization that two million crashes happen each year because of failure to use turn signals doesn't sway an irresponsible driver to start doing things properly, take it one step further and hit the drivers where it really hurts: their driving records and their bank accounts.
Joseph Bell is the editor of The Ridgway Record and The Kane Republican. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .