Lane change signal

Ask The Traffic School Instructor: Signal For Lane Change

Question: Is it common to get pulled over for changing lanes without a turn signal?

Answer: It’s hard to tell if law enforcement officers routinely stop motorists for failing to signal for a lane change. In looking at the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics for 2013, there’s no specific mention in the statistics of failure to signal for a lane change. However, there are statistics on citations issued for improper lane change. In 2013, there were 51,898 citations for improper lane change reported to the FHP. Those 51,898 citations only  make up two percent of the total of all citations issued for moving offenses.

Even if we were to add the 185,192 citations issued for careless driving and the 28,965 citations issued for improper turns, that would only make up eleven percent of the total number of tickets given. So, apparently, it’s not a common occurrence. That being said, Florida law does require motorists to signal for a lane change when they are changing lanes.

There used to be some confusion about the law because, when it was originally passed, the law referred to changing direction from a direct course. Some law enforcement officers interpreted that to mean a signal was required when making a left or right turn but not necessarily when changing lanes. I actually heard a police officer tell a class that turn signals weren’t required when changing lanes. In 2009, the Florida State Legislature cleared up that confusion by adding the wording “or move left or right upon a highway.”

One of the biggest driving pet peeves I hear from drivers in my classes is the failure of other drivers to use a turn signal. No matter how the law is written, it’s just good common sense to always signal your intentions whenever you change directions; whether you’re making a 90 degree turn or moving from one lane to another. Communication between motorists is critical to driving safety and it takes such little effort to hit that turn signal switch.

If you want to check out the law yourself, read: Chapter 316.155 When signal required

Has your vehicle been recalled?

Has Your Vehicle Been Recalled?

Late last month, the National Highway Transportation Safety Commission (NHTSA) announced the launching of a new, free web site that allows vehicle owners to determine if their personal vehicle has been recalled for manufacturer defects. The website allows vehicle owners to look up any outstanding or incomplete recalls by entering their vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). To find your vehicle’s VIN, you can look either on the driver side dashboard, just underneath the windshield or on the identification plate mounted on the driver’s side door post.

NHTSA has also developed apps for Apple devices and Android devices that could come in handy to find out if that used car you’re thinking about buying has any outstanding recall issues. Read more: U.S. Department of Transportation Unveils New, Free, Online Search Tool for Recalls Using Vehicle Identification Number

Take a coffee nap to prevent drowsy driving

Drowsy While Driving? Take A Coffee Nap

In past articles on drowsy driving, we’ve advised taking a coffee nap although, to be truthful, we didn’t know, at the time, that they were called coffee naps. Just exactly what is a coffee nap? It’s drinking a cup of coffee (or other caffeinated beverage) and then taking a short nap before the effects of the caffeine kick in. Now, scientists have done the research and found that a coffee nap is better than just drinking coffee or just taking a nap alone.

In comparison studies, the data shows that those who took a coffee nap performed better on memory tests and driving simulators than those who just took naps or just drank coffee alone. They were also able to remain alert for longer periods. Just to make sure it wasn’t just a mind thing, some subjects were given a decaf coffee “placebo” and those “control subjects” failed to perform as well on tests as those who drank the full strength coffee.

To understand the science behind this and to learn how to take the best kind of coffee nap, read more: Scientists agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone

Rude driver

Rude Drivers Worse Than Dangerous Drivers?

Rude drivers tend to bring up feelings of anger and frustration more than drivers who perform dangerous maneuvers according to an interesting study conducted by the Queensland University of Technology in Australia. The study followed 209 drivers in Queensland for a week and the drivers were asked to record negative events that they experienced while driving.

Most drivers reported rude behavior on the part of other drivers as being more upsetting than dangerous driving behaviors. Some drivers reported retaliating against the rude driver by use of the horn or hand gestures. Others decided that retaliation of any sort only brought them down to the same level as the rude driver.

Although the study was designed to study thought processes and not safe driving practices, there’s probably little doubt that those drivers who chose not to retaliate were among the safer drivers in the group. It’s not easy to fight the urge to retaliate in some way when someone is rude but those who forget it and drive on are taking the safest approach. Retaliating in some way could possibly trigger a road rage situation.

Driver courtesy is a practice that isn’t seen much anymore but, to survive on the roads, it’s a critical skill to develop. Perhaps the hardest skill to develop is to act courteously to other drivers even when that courtesy isn’t returned. Practicing that skill on today’s roads is becoming more critical to driver safety. Read more: Driver Etiquette More Important To Road Users Than Safe Driving

Using a parking lot to avoid the light

Ask The Traffic School Instructor: Using A Parking Lot To Avoid Traffic Signals

Question: If you’re at a red light and need to turn, is it illegal to avoid the light by cutting through a parking lot?

Answer: It’s very tempting – you need to turn right but you’re two or three cars behind the light and the drivers ahead are going straight. It would be so easy to just cut through the parking lot and exit onto your street but imagine if a whole line of cars were doing that every time the light was red.

It is against the law to cut through a parking lot to avoid a traffic signal. In Florida, this law is covered under Florida Statute 316.074 – Obedience to and required traffic control devices. If a law enforcement officer were to observe you doing this, you could receive a moving violation ticket. Almost all states have a similar law.

The only time it would be permissible was if you were directed to do so by a law enforcement officer. A situation where this could happen was if there were a traffic crash in the intersection and traffic was backed up. At that point, an officer might direct traffic through the parking lot to clear the traffic and keep it moving. However, before doing this, the officer would first have to decide whether or not the extra traffic might pose a danger to pedestrians or other traffic in the parking lot before allowing traffic to cut through. Situations like that would be very rare.

When you’re sitting at a red light, your sense of time can become distorted and every second spent waiting seems like five. If you were to actually time the length of a red light, you would probably find that the actual time spent was much shorter than it seemed. It’s better to just wait it out and avoid getting a ticket rather than avoiding the light.