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Why do turn signals turn us off?

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, October 4, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

Please raise your hand if this has happened to you: Upon approaching an intersection, you slow, check for cross-traffic, then slip smoothly around the corner, only to be asked by your spouse, parent or passenger riding shotgun, "Why didn't you signal?"

If you're like me, a handful of answers immediately spring to mind, all of them lame.

But at long last, the folks at Response Insurance, who dared to ask that very question of 1,000 adult drivers in their National Driving Habits Survey, have given the turn-signal scofflaws among us some real data we can use, if only in self-defense.

Who's not signaling?

Auto insurance companies like Response have been hammering safe driving habits into our brains for years, and for good reason. The safer your drive, the safer the roads are for your fellow travelers and the lower your auto insurance rates.

It won't come as a huge surprise that men are more likely to make a signal-free lane-change than woman, by a margin of 62 percent to 53 percent. My wife could have told you that. Or that nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of drivers ages 18 to 24 admit they don't signal, versus less than half (49 percent) of drivers 55 to 64. Older drivers may do other things that drive us crazy, but failing to signal is apparently not one of them.

Why we don't signal

But the true pearls in this long-overdue, groundbreaking study are the reasons we give for not signaling. Here's how they break down:
• 42 percent say they didn't have enough time to signal.
• 23 percent say they are just plain lazy.
• 17 percent say they're afraid that if they signal, they'll forget to turn it off.
• 11 percent say they don't consider it important.
• 8 percent say they don't signal because other drivers don't.

Oh, and you'll like this: 7 percent say they abstain from signaling because it "adds excitement to driving." Allow me add: That goes for all of us.

The risks when you don't signal

I was a little disappointed to see no mention of my personal favorite, "It wears out the bulb," which was taught to me by my grandfather as I piloted his ancient Buick around the neighborhood in a signal-free style that did little to cloak my learner's-permit status.

"The bottom line is that most drivers are failing to see the importance of using their turn signals," says Response chairman and CEO Mory Katz. "But, they are doing so at their own peril -- and the peril of others -- since their unanticipated actions cause crashes."

Besides, how much can a turn-signal bulb cost anyway?

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus

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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.

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Joe Jones
October 06, 2013 at 8:03 am

Lack of IQ.

Mister Reader
October 05, 2013 at 6:25 pm

One sort of reasonable reason might be that the driver is in a left- or right-turn only lane. So "of course" the car is turning, negating the need for a signal. Just sayin'.