Do I need to indicate here?

When should you signal? A guide for learner drivers

Signal or not?

Do I need to indicate here?

Is a question I am regularly asked and I’m sure it’s the same for other instructors. People who are learning to drive are usually OK with such decisions when it comes to junctions but at other times there is inevitably some confusion and I suspect that its not only learner drivers who are confused.

Most instructors will reply with something that would require the client to think about the solution for himself like “signal if you think it would be useful to another road user”. It’s a form of standard response which has been used for years and it’s become something that we just say without thinking.

After years of giving this reply, I recently heard myself saying the line and I realised it was quite a stupid thing to say because it meant almost any signal could be justified to anyone in any circumstances and as a guide to people learning to drive it was useless. It had to change, the only problem I had was thinking of an alternative.

What message do indicators really convey?

I pondered the question for a few days and asked myself what message I wanted to convey when I used the indicators. Naturally, it varies for different situations, but usually I am not simply telling someone that I want to change direction e.g. if I want to stop the car on the left I am saying something like “I am stopping on the left, I need to slow down and I want you to take some action to ensure you don’t crash into the back of me”.

When thought about in this way, it becomes very clear that I am the person who benefits from that signal and the real purpose of the signal is to ask the driver behind me to take some kind of action.

If we look at any other situation (not junctions) where we might consider using indicators i.e. overtaking, passing parked vehicles, lane changing or moving off from the side of the road. In every case, if a signal is necessary it is because we want another driver to take some kind of action.

If we are not asking for a response – A signal is probably not necessary!

Logically, it therefor follows that if we don’t require another driver to take some action a signal is not required.

At the time of writing I have only just started making changes to my training methods. I am trying out different methods of introducing this way of thinking to my clients and it may take a while to evaluate any benefits.

Watch this space.