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Communicating

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2.5.1 – Signal Your Intentions

Other drivers can’t know what you are going to do until you tell them.

Signaling what you intend to do is important for safety. Here are some general rules for signaling.

Turns. There are three good rules for using turn signals:

  • Signal early. Signal well before you turn. It is the best way to keep others from trying to pass you.
  • Signal continuously. You need both hands on the wheel to turn safely. Don’t cancel the signal until you have completed the turn.
  • Cancel your signal. Don’t forget to turn off your turn signal after you’ve turned (if you don’t have self-canceling signals).

Lane Changes. Put your turn signal on before changing lanes. Change lanes slowly and smoothly. That way a driver you didn’t see may have a chance to honk his/her horn, or avoid your vehicle.

Slowing Down. Warn drivers behind you when you see you’ll need to slow down. A few light taps on the brake pedal — enough to flash the brake lights — should warn following drivers. Use the four-way emergency flashers for times when you are driving very slowly or are stopped. Warn other drivers in any of the following situations:

Trouble Ahead. The size of your vehicle may make it hard for drivers behind you to see hazards ahead. If you see a hazard that will require slowing down, warn the drivers behind by flashing your brake lights.

Tight Turns. Most car drivers don’t know how slowly you have to go to make a tight turn in a large vehicle. Give drivers behind you warning by braking early and slowing gradually.

Stopping on the Road. Truck and bus drivers sometimes stop in the roadway to unload cargo or passengers, or to stop at a railroad crossing. Warn following drivers by flashing your brake lights. Don’t stop suddenly.

Driving Slowly. Drivers often do not realize how fast they are catching up to a slow vehicle until they are very close. If you must drive slowly, alert following drivers by turning on your emergency flashers if it is legal. (Laws regarding the use of flashers differ from one state to another. Check the laws of the states where you will drive.)

Don’t Direct Traffic. Some drivers try to help out others by signaling when it is safe to pass. You should not do this. You could cause an accident. You could be blamed and it could cost you many thousands of dollars.

2.5.2 – Communicating Your Presence

Other drivers may not notice your vehicle even when it’s in plain sight. To help prevent accidents, let them know you’re there.

When Passing. Whenever you are about to pass a vehicle, pedestrian, or bicyclist, assume they don’t see you. They could suddenly move in front of you. When it is legal, tap the horn lightly or, at night, flash your lights from low to high beam and back. And, drive carefully enough to avoid a crash even if they don’t see or hear you.

When It’s Hard to See. At dawn, dusk, in rain, or snow, you need to make yourself easier to see. If you are having trouble seeing other vehicles, other drivers will have trouble seeing you. Turn on your lights. Use the headlights, not just the identification or clearance lights. Use the low beams; high beams can bother people in the daytime as well as at night.

When Parked at the Side of the Road. When you pull off the road and stop, be sure to turn on the four-way emergency flashers. This is important at night. Don’t trust the taillights to give warning. Drivers have crashed into the rear of a parked vehicle because they thought it was moving normally.

If you must stop on a road or the shoulder of any road, you must put out your emergency warning devices within ten minutes. Place your warning devices at the following locations:

  • If you must stop on or by a one-way or divided highway, place warning devices 10 feet, 100 feet, and 200 feet toward the approaching traffic. See Figure 2.8.
  • If you stop on a two-lane road carrying traffic in both directions or on an undivided highway, place warning devices within 10 feet of the front or rear corners to mark the location of the vehicle and 100 feet behind and ahead of the vehicle, on the shoulder or in the lane you stopped in. See Figure 2.9.

    Two-Way or UnDivided Highway

Back beyond any hill, curve, or other obstruction that prevents other drivers from seeing the vehicle within 500 feet. If line of sight view is obstructed due to hill or curve, move the rear-most triangle to a point back down the road so warning is provided. See Figure 2.10.

Obstructed View

When putting out the triangles, hold them between yourself and the oncoming traffic for your own safety. (So other drivers can see you.)

Use Your Horn When Needed. Your horn can let others know you’re there. It can help to avoid a crash. Use your horn when needed. However, it can startle others and could be dangerous when used unnecessarily.