Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Still annoying after all these years

We may never know if it’s due to laziness, incompetence or indifference, but many drivers fail to use vehicle “blinkers” to warn others of their intentions to make turns.  This has probably been the case since the invention of turn signals, but, after all these years, it still remains one of the top pet peeves for other drivers who witness this failure.

Take, for example, the sentiments of reader G.E. who wrote, “Is there any way you can convince Spokane drivers that they won’t wear out their cars if they use their turn signals?  I’ve got two motorcycles, a hot VW rabbit and an Acura RDX but walk lot and am semi-poed when waiting to cross a street a vehicle turns before reaching me.  Also see, if the turn signal goes on at all, it is activated after the vehicle brakes and starts into the turn.  I feel these drivers (?) don’t read your excellent column but a ‘Use your turn-signal’ message needs to be sent.”

It’s hard to believe that using signals is too much effort for so many drivers.  I’ve written on the topic of turn signal use in past columns, but it seems the message bears repeating.

For starters, the Revised Code of Washington, Section 46.61.305 states:

(1) No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.

(2) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.

(3) No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give such signal

Breaking it down simply, the law specifies:  (1) a signal must precede and accompany every turn; (2) the signal must be made at least 100 feet in advance of turn; (3) the proper order of operation is:  signal, brake if necessary, then turn — not brake, turn and signal simultaneously.  Idaho Statute 49-808 essentially mirrors the Washington law.

I don’t see any ambiguity there, or reference to any type of turn that does not require a signal.  So drivers please take note:  Signaling provides a vital form of communication to other drivers and, as reader G.E. points out, pedestrians.  Even if a signal is not crucial in a given circumstance, its absence is an irritant to someone in almost every case.

Driver G.E. believes that offending drivers may not be reading my column (though he questions calling them drivers), but given the high number of non-signaling scofflaws, I’ll bet that some of them are.  Here’s hoping that this reminder induces at least a few of those drivers who don’t signal, or signal improperly, to rethink their bad habits.

In a related topic, it is still legal to display hand (arm) signals from your car, truck, bicycle or motorcycle.  RCW 46.61.315 is actively on the books, and states:  All signals herein required given by hand and arm shall be given from the left side of the vehicle in the following manner and such signals shall indicate as follows:  (1) Left turn. Hand and arm extended horizontally.  (2) Right turn. Hand and arm extended upward.  (3) Stop or decrease speed. Hand and arm extended downward.

Therefore, even if a faulty bulb or flasher has rendered your vehicle’s signal system inoperative, it’s not a valid excuse to omit signaling.  Once again, an appropriate question for those drivers who habitually or occasionally don’t signal before turning is:  Why?

I can’t think of a good reason for not warning other drivers of my intention to turn or change lanes.  The procedure is quite easy, and is a tremendous aid to traffic flow and safety.  Signals are a simple, effective tool to help drivers communicate and avoid vehicle-to-vehicle contact; please use them as required.


Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at