Why People Don’t Signal

Joe assembled an amusing list of reasons why drivers don’t use their signals (in the British Isles they call it ‘indicating’):

  1. I’m performing an illegal manoeuvre and the Garda [Ed: police] might notice
  2. I’m only changing lanes
  3. I’ve passed my test
  4. I’m on my second provisional license
  5. I’ve stolen this car
  6. I’m driving a white van/taxi/mercedes/BMW
  7. It should be obvious from my road position what I’m planning to do
  8. I’m running this red light (see reason 1)
  9. Using my indicators runs down the battery
  10. I used my indicators yesterday

Do people signal more consistently in North America? I think so, but I’m not really sure. I’ve barely driven in Europe, and I rarely drive back home, so I have only vague impressions. Someone ought to do a study.


  1. I don’t know what the downtown Vancouver area so much; but on the freeway and the suburbs signaling is becoming a lost art. And yes, it seems the more illegal the signal or lane change, the less chance of a signal. You would think that if you are going to zip across three lanes at once or cut in front of someone with 12 inches to spare, you’d want to give warning more than for an obvious maneuver.

  2. I always thought my parents were just lazy drivers, but maybe they drive like that because they’re British immigrants. Interesting…

  3. Over here the usual excuse is number 9.

    I, the newly-licensed Maltese driver, have actually had arguments with people telling me not to use my indicators so much…

  4. MaltaGirl: There’s a similar ethos around the Mediterranean (at least in Spain, Italy and Malta) about using your headlights. Nobody turns them on until it’s really dark, like past dusk.

    In driver training in Canada–and this was 15 years ago–we were taught to always drive with our lights on. In fact, all American-made cars (I think) have them on all the time by default. I gather it really helps reduce the incidence of accidents.

  5. I have noticed that VW drivers seem to fit into #6, but it could be that they are driving so fast that they would be signally all the time in and out of the lane.

    I have also noticed that the more urban driving (Toronto) you do the less likely you will signal, where as those of us who live in the rural areas tend to use the indicators more often.

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