Editorials

It’s called a turn signal, folks — use it!

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Two cars make to wait a left hand turn on Northwest 27th Avenue and Seventh Street on Saturday, June 3, 2017. The Chevy Blazer on the other side also wait to turn across the intersection without their turn signal on.
Two cars make to wait a left hand turn on Northwest 27th Avenue and Seventh Street on Saturday, June 3, 2017. The Chevy Blazer on the other side also wait to turn across the intersection without their turn signal on. rkoltun@miamiherald.com

This is no surprise to anyone: Traffic is horrible in Miami-Dade. We know that all too well.

County leaders, including Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Commission Chair Esteban Bovo. Jr. and Director of the Department of Transportation Alice Bravo, have picked up the mantle and are working for long-term solutions. While commuters wait for relief — many years off — they continue to waste time sitting on congested streets and expressways.

But too many drivers are responsible for exacerbating what already is an aggravating situation on the roads: They are rude, careless and selfish drivers, maybe clueless, too. They flout the rules of the road — running red lights, weaving in and out of lanes, texting while driving — and put the rest of us in danger .

This week, Herald reporter Linda Robertson tackled the topic of drivers who don’t use their turn signals. This is no mere minor annoyance. This widespread lapse causes millions of wholly preventable vehicle crashes nationwide.

As incredible as it might seem to derelict drivers, the use of turn signals is required by law. It’s in Section 316.155 of the Florida Statute. Using a turn signal is a way for drivers to respectfully indicate their next move. The results are invaluable: Those who signal to fellow drivers their intentions on the road help prevent collisions.

Still, turn signal neglect is an epidemic in South Florida. So the question is: Can such rampant apathy be cured? Some favor programming turn signal reminders into cars, much like seat-belt beeps, but that’s years away and Miami-Dade needs a practical solution now.

Nationwide, this failure to use turn signals results in 2 million collisions annually according to research by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Here’s the breakdown: Drivers fail to use turn signals 48 percent of the time when changing lanes and 25 percent of the time when making a turn, according to a report by automotive engineer Richard Ponziani, who observed 12,000 turning vehicles.

Experts say that there might be psychology at work here. Using turn signals could be seen as a sign of weakness. “If a driver signals his intention to change lanes, the cars around him take it as a personal insult that they’ll be cut off or fall behind. So they accelerate,” said Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the University of Miami’s College of Engineering.

Or a macho mentality may be at play. In Miami-Dade, drivers are more hostile. “Not letting someone in is more common behavior among males, and refusing to use the turn signal is an affirmation of manhood,” said Michael French, professor of health economics at the University of Miami.

And finally, Miami-Dade is also a city of exiles and refugees, visitors and transplants from other parts of the country and world. Not everyone’s driving talents are the same.

This turn signal abuse is not new to this community. Law-abiding drivers have been driven to the edge for years by those who don’t follow the laws.

But what if we could decrease our overall traffic problems by at least 20 percent if everyone followed the rules of the road, especially the use of the turn signal? Would you be willing to signal when turning? At the very least, we envision a county-initiated public-service campaign with safety on the roads at its core.

What else might work? Send us your solutions to Miami-Dade’s turn signal apathy epidemic to HeraldEd @MiamiHerald.com.

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