Turn Signal Neglect A Continuing Problem In The US
Jason Farmer for RedOrbit.com
A recent in-depth study by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) of turn signal rates-of-neglect has yielded some surprising and somewhat disturbing results. The study reveals just how rampant the problem is and gives an idea of the number of accidents caused, or potentially caused, each year by improper usage of turn signals. Solutions to the problem were also offered by the researchers in the study and were presented at the 2012 SAE World Congress.
The extensive study recorded the turn signal usage of 12,000 vehicles as they changed lanes or made turns. The data reveals the rate of turn signal neglect for vehicles changing lanes is 48%. Vehicles making turns improperly used turn signals 25% of the time. The statistics extrapolated to include all U.S. drivers means that turn signal neglect occurs over 2 billion times a day, or 750 billion times a year.
The data collected in the study indicates that turn signal neglect is responsible for up to 2 million accidents per year. This would mean that improper usage of turn signals causes more than twice the number of collisions than those resulting from distracted drivers, which, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approaches 1 million. Given the myriad variables contributing to driver distraction, no one is quite sure how to effectively deal with that problem. However, researchers in the study have concluded that recent Smart Turn Signal technology may offer a very effective solution to the problem of turn signal neglect.
Vehicles can be fitted with Smart Turn Signal technology that use sensors and computer analysis to shut off the turn signal when necessary and remind motorists to use the turn signal on a regular basis and at the appropriate time. If the computer detects a pattern of a driver’s neglect to use the turn signal properly, it will offer a prompt to do so, like the beeping sound that reminds drivers to wear their seatbelts. The technology has been shown to assist drivers in establishing good signaling habits and can greatly reduce the risk of accidents and traffic violations.
Another potential benefit of the Smart Turn Signal technology is the savings in cost to car manufactures and buyers. The Smart Turn Signal uses already existing Stability Control System sensors standard in all new cars. And, with the new technology, the standard turn signal trip mechanism can be eliminated, also reducing weight and space in the vehicle. While it has been a very effective safety feature on all cars since it was implemented in 1940, the turn signal trip mechanism has not been improved upon since.
“This is a first of its kind report on a subject that amazingly, has never been studied. The turn signal is one of the very original automotive crash prevention devices and this simple driver to driver communication device remains extremely effective, but only when it is accurately displayed as required by law”, states Richard Ponziani, P.E., President of RLP Engineering and author of the report. “The turn signal can no longer be considered ‘optional’ and all drivers have an ongoing duty to use it, just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or at a red light” he added. Ponziani further stated: “Smart Turn Signals are the perfect complement to the Stability Control System since Stability Control predominately prevents single-vehicle crashes, whereas the Smart Turn Signal prevents multi-vehicle crashes”.