Today Is National Turn Signal Awareness Day

Well, not really, but it should be.


Driving is confusing enough, as I was reminded during this morning's commute, when I almost crashed twice into two different cars that failed to signal. There are so many variables to traffic --weather, congestion, being distracted by an important cell phone call about what to buy at the grocery store--that the lowly turn signal doesn't get the attention it deserves. Well it should. And we should use the humble device more often.

I am declaring today National Turn Signal Awareness Day, which hereby replaces the underutilized Columbus Day on the calendar. (Back in New York, the crypto-holiday is basically an obsolete appeal to Italian-American voters, commemorated by one of those annoying parades that makes it impossible to get across town; here, it's merely a head-scratching curiosity that's outlived its purpose, something that's hard to explain to schoolchildren.) But turn signals cross all ethnic boundaries, and motorists of all creeds and colors can--and should--fairly condemn those who fail to appreciate the marvelous little device.

Did you know turn signals were invented 100 years ago? It's true! But it wasn't until the late '30s when Buick began their commercial introduction. And now they're required by law! Back in 1963 our state legislature resolved that: "Any vehicle may be equipped and when required under RCW 46.37.070(2) shall be equipped with electric turn signals which shall indicate an intention to turn by flashing lights showing to the front and rear of a vehicle or on a combination of vehicles on the side of the vehicle or combination toward which the turn is to be made." RCW 46.61.305 says you have to use them for lane changes on the highway. And according to Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 11.55.280, "Signals shall be used to indicate an intention to turn, change lanes, or start from a parked position."

The operative word here is "intention," which addresses the key question many of us wonder--myself included this morning--when confronted with cars that mysteriously slow, dawdle, brake, weave, and otherwise hesitate without hinting at their ultimate purpose. That question, which I usually utter to myself through clenched teeth (and clenched bicycle brakes), goes like this: "Hey, buddy, how am I supposed to read your effing mind?"

Hence the beauty of the turn signal! Thanks to this genius innovation, we really can read one another's minds! And now, on this inaugural National Turn Signal Awareness Day, those minds should be inclined in one of two possible directions: left or right. Otherwise, you should not be turning.

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