Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Do You Teach Intelligent Use of Driving Signals?

driving signals used in Nottingham

The art of driver communication.

I took a new pupil on the other day who is a university student. One part of his course work was the study of the use of signals by drivers to communicate with each other. This got me thinking about how we as driving instructors teach the use of signals. Do we produce thinking drivers who consider why they are signalling and for whose benefit, or do we simply train new drivers to use signals simply as part of a prescribed routine?
   Signalling is directly linked to forward planning and hazard awareness. Signals can only be effective if the information gathered by the driver is a relatively complete picture of the overall traffic situation. Based on this information a decision has to be made on which signal to give and when. All this needs to be done in a short time so it's quite a complicated task.
   I always explain to learners that the optional indicator signal when moving off and stopping creates a need to actually look properly along the road and take pedestrians into account. Simply giving a signal every time you move off to make sure you're covered negates the need for thorough observations. Signalling as part of a strict five point plan does not produce a thinking driver. The same occurs with multi lane roundabouts. Giving a signal every time when leaving a roundabout regardless of the lane markings is poor driving and can be misleading.
   How many learners consider the brake lights as a legitimate signal as opposed to a by product of using the brake? Not many I think. Pressing the brake pedal lightly and early can give a warning to those behind before more pressure is applied to actually slow or stop the car. When reversing during manoeuvres I have had pupils who have learned with other instructors who constantly shift in and out of reverse gear. They never considered that this would result in turning the reversing lights on and off which can be confusing to other drivers who may be waiting to make their decision based on the signals being given.
    Many new drivers don't consider the use of signals with regard to pedestrians. If an indicator is not required because your lane is only going left, what about any pedestrians waiting too cross the road you are turning into? It would benefit them to know you are turning as they probably cannot see the road markings or wouldn't take notice of them if they were visible.
   We need to teach signals as a complete method of communication with other motorists and pedestrians. What about arm signals? I think I have seen them being used twice by older drivers in the 12 years I've been teaching. Most drivers couldn't demonstrate them or wouldn't know what they meant if they saw someone giving them. This is perhaps an area where my teaching could be improved as I only pay lip service to them and hardly ever practice using them in a real situation. Are arm signals a thing of the past? If nobody know what they mean then they are no use at all.
   Teaching the effective use of signals as part of a communications package means first teaching about awareness and decision making. It's also about considering the needs of other drivers and the safety of all road users. Sound  use of signals is therefore evidence of  a competent and thinking driver.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Russ

    It occurs to me that 'use of signals' would be a valid and full subject for a check test. I might also adapt your last sentence to say 'sound teaching of the use of signals is evidence of a competent and thinking trainer.' I'm not going to say 'instructor' because that smacks of military drills. I agree totally about the need to inform pedestrians. Also there is nowadays a need to minimise the use of signals, so that the important ones stand out. Could go on at length .... happy to communicate with your student directly if desired.

    In the mean time, here is a study video - note who does and doesn't signal and why. In particular, note how precisely the 'exit' signal on this roundabout needs to be: