How to Know You’re an Idiot Driver: The One Question Test [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Apr06

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How to Know You’re an Idiot Driver: The One Question Test [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

We’ve all been on the road at one point or another and encountered an idiot driver. Drivers operating a motor vehicle either unsafely or in a crazy, haphazard matter. Sometimes you just want to floor it and knock them off the road like a big game of bumper cars. Fortunately, high insurance premiums are the ultimate deterrent against that plan, so you just have to suck it up. But, could you actually be that idiot driver?

From tailgating to drunk driving, there are a ton of no-no’s getting behind the wheel. When we first pass our driver’s tests, our heads are still swirling with the rules of the road. Most are really no brainers, but it seems that more and more drivers these days are getting lazy and forgetting one of the most very simple rules of the road. That can be narrowed down to one simple question:


When turning at an intersection or changing lanes, do you signal every time? It’s a simple yes or no.

Sadly, more and more drivers can honestly say no and even more sad is that many won’t admit or do not know that they aren’t using their turn light.

“Sometimes” is not a valid answer. That means that there are times when you don’t – so the answer is “No”.

Scoring a no answer means you fail this simple test and you are, perhaps, an idiot driver.

Caught on camera: A taxi in Washington DC, makes a right turn from the center lane without using a turn signal.

Living and working in the New York City metro area, I have seen my fair share of close calls by both pedestrians and motorists that are baffled when a driver suddenly whips to the right and tears off into a new direction, without making a signal. It’s like the rest of us are supposed to be psychic and know what’s going on in your brain.

I watched a driver last week cross all three lanes of the New Jersey turnpike weaving in and out of traffic, without using a signal once.

I’ve seen close calls with pedestrians too, who are waiting for cars coming into cross traffic. A car without it’s blinker on indicates to everyone waiting that the vehicle is going straight. Then the driver surprisingly turns right into a crowd, gesturing as though the entire crowd was wrong for crossing the street.

Are these people turning left? No signal, so who knows?

In New Jersey, where it is permissible to turn right on red. I can’t recall how many times I’ve missed an opportunity to make a right, thinking the motorist in cross traffic is heading straight, only to suddenly veer off to the right.

Making sudden turns like this is not only dangerous to everyone else, but can also lead to a hefty fine. While most states have a law on the books requiring a signal for every turn, it is barely enforced. Which could be part of the cause for many driver’s becoming too lazy to flick a little lever that’s located just a few centimeters away from their hand on the steering wheel.

Most likely, you will not get pulled over for failure to signal, but should you do, is that really the violation you want on your record? Your insurance rates go up will most likely go up, having that black mark like that! Most importantly, would you be able to live with yourself causing a serious accident, just because you were too lazy to signal?

It’s not just everyday civilian drivers that are guilty. At least once a week, I catch an NYPD police officer being just as lazy. If they’re racing to a call, that’s one thing, but if there just wanting to make a left turn onto New York City’s Lexington Avenue, flip the lever!

When vehicles were first hitting the roads, traffic laws required motorists to signal by placing their arms out the driver’s side window and either pointing left for left, arm up for a right turn, and arm down for the vehicle decelerating. These rules are still in effect for bicycle drivers in most states today.

An early version of signals, similar to a semaphore, were mounted outside the front doors and swung up while lighting up to indicate the direction of travel. These were easily broken and the last were discontinued in the 1960’s.

The first electronic turn signals were patented in 1938 and are required on any new vehicle on the road.  Most cars also have a secondary set of signals on the side and many trucks have additional sets on the top of their cabins, trailers, and running boards.  Some newer vehicles can have signals embedded into the mirrors and other accessories as well.

In 1968, a set of standard rules for highways were adopted by the federal government. These rules, known as The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108, put official regulations into law regarding car signaling devices. These rules call for all signals to be amber color, with red also being permissible in the rear. A National Highway Transportation Agency study concluded that vehicles with rear amber lights are 28% less likely to be involved in an accident. While the rules call for all car signals to light at the same time, Ford Mustangs since 2010 use alternating “wig-wag” blinking.

A turn signal attached to a side mirror.

Most car dashboards will also emit an audible click and flashing lights to let the driver know the outer signal is on. A steady on light on the panel can indicate that one of the outer signal lamps has burned out. This is a standard safety feature now built into most cars. It’s amazing to me seeing a driver go down the road for miles with their signal on and being oblivious to it. Most emit a sound and flashing light directly on the instrument panel in front of the driver.  Driving with a signal on, with no intention to turn, could be just as dangerous as not even using one at all.

THE 411

What: Auto turn signals

Description: signaling lights installed in all motor vehicles to indicate a change in travel

How to use: flip a lever, either up or down, located on the steering wheel to activate

First installed: electric, lighted version similar to modern signals – 1930’s


I make it a point to use a turn signal for every turn, whether another vehicle is near or not. Not only is it polite for other drivers, it’s also increases safety and can help to avoid accidents. You never know when another car or pedestrian could be in your blind spot, or somewhere off to the side, so using a signal every time is just right.

So, do everyone a favor and use your turn signal every time you change lanes, turn down a street, or are changing your vehicle’s direction of travel. It’s not only the law, it’s safe.

For those who do, we all thank you and appreciate your effort. It doesn’t take much to do, just reach up about an inch and flip the lever.  Most cars will automatically turn them off, once you have completed your turn.

So, use your signal every time and make life easier for all us and avoid being that idiot driver!

Image credits: akarmy, T.Rob, thruhike98, Brave Heart, GP(MPK), TheCanonShot, and sidewalk flying