No Surprise Ending: Why Turn Signals Save Lives

GUEST POST BY Richard P. Console, Jr. of Console Hollawell P.C.


Turn signals – every car has them, but not every driver seems to know what they’re for or even when to use them. A 2012 study released in May by the Society of Automotive Engineers reveals just how many drivers are forgoing that flick of the switch when they change lanes or make turns, and the numbers are startling. According to the study, which analyzed traffic data from around the country, drivers neglect to use their turn signals 48 percent of the time when changing lanes. When making turns, the failure rate is about 25 percent. Passaic County car accident lawyers see the problem with turn signal failure as two fold – a lack of responsibility coupled with relatively no enforcement.  

Traffic laws in all states consider not using turn signals as a minor violation, with fines clocking in at around $100 per offense. Citations for failing to use turn signals could cost motorists their “safe driver” discounts, though anecdotal evidence seems to suggest police would rather pull drivers over for speeding than not announcing their turn/lane-change intentions. Despite a relative lack of enforcement at by local authorities, civil enforcement when it comes to traffic accidents can drastically affect auto insurance claims and who receives compensation. 

A driver who fails to use their turn signal and causes an accident could face an uphill battle to obtain compensation from an insurance company. In states with comparative negligence rules, not obeying traffic laws could push driver liability up to or over the 50 percent threshold, which could eliminate or reduce their right to file a claim. In contributory negligence states, including North Carolina and Maryland, the decision to not use a turn signal could block an injured driver from recovering any damages.

Roadways are no place for motorists to conduct their own version of Mystery Theater. Every driver has a legal obligation to announce their intentions so other drivers sharing the road with them know where they’re going. Without proper use of turn signals, drivers have almost no time to react to changing road conditions as motorists suddenly stop or swerve abruptly into their lanes of travel. That places everyone at serious risk for potential critical injuries. In New Jersey, our car accident attorneys in Union City and other areas see the tragic results of these actions every day.

The Society of Automotive Engineers estimates that drivers around the country fail to signal properly when changing lanes or turning about 750 billion times annually. Law makers have been quick to announce stiff penalties for those who text while driving, but a much traffic larger issue looms before them. How do they plan to tackle what appears to be a much larger threat to safety?