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Signaling a change?

Now where was I when they repealed that law?  


You probably know the one — at least if you've been driving for any length of time.


I know it was in effect when I took driver's ed (for the sake of my grandkids, that was back when Henry Ford was building prototypes in his barn). I distinctly remember this particular regulation being in our textbook. And it was a function we were expected to perform religiously during road training.


Unbeknownst to me, however, the law undoubtedly has changed. Although I continue to abide by the rule — unnecessarily, it seems — I find that more and more drivers are in tune with the new way of doing things.


At first I thought that a fellow driver must have been forgetful by neglecting to perform this simple task. But as time has gone by, I've found that, regretfully, I'm the one who's out of step with the times.


Case in point: I'm following another car in town when it abruptly stops in the middle of the street while traffic continues in the opposite lane. I wonder if there's an unseen obstruction in the road or if the driver ahead is having car trouble.


Then, lo and behold, the car suddenly comes to life and makes a left turn, leaving the way clear for me to continue.


"Oh," I realize, "he was just waiting for the traffic to clear before turning. I would have known that earlier if he had activated his left-turn signal."


Since I've seen that scenario multiplied dozens of times over the years, I'm left to deduce that the use of turn signals is no longer required.


What's really embarrassing to me is that, as a journalist, I allowed that change in a basic law to totally pass me by. I can't help but kick myself because I, of all people, should have known.


And it doesn't help that I haven't picked up a state driver's handbook in years. But I see now that I need to check one out to be sure I'm not unnecessarily performing other possibly out-dated rules, such as stopping for red lights or driving on the right side of the centerline.


I'm especially concerned, now that I've ascertained that turn signals are verboten, that my continued use of them will lead to being ticketed by an officer of the law. You see, old habits die hard and reflex causes me to activate my turn signals any time I need to make a turn.



Therefore, I feel obliged to apologize in advance to all those reading this. If you happen to see me flashing that irritating signal light, please realize that I'm just an old man acting on self-preserving instincts.


I can't help it. Signaling my intentions to other drivers is so deeply ingrained that I find myself hitting the turn signal lever before thinking.


What drives me crazy, though, is thinking about how much of our resources we're squandering when automakers continue to include turn signals in their new models. Seems to me they could save millions each year by doing away with those vestigial instruments. 


Also, by having that antique signaling device beside the steering column, old codgers like me will continue to misuse them. But I guess the automakers follow the age-old philosophy that turn signal levers don't activate signal lights, people do.  


There's still another habit that I continue to follow that I'm learning is a thing of the past. I call it the "claim the intersection" rule.


It's another of those rules that my driver's ed instructor instilled in me. When you need to turn left at a green light, you pull into the intersection while waiting for the oncoming traffic to clear.


Since you're already in the intersection, even if the light changes red, you can turn left because otherwise you're blocking traffic.


Now I find that "claim the intersection" has been replaced by "sit at the white stop line until: a. traffic behind you pushes you forward or b. hell freezes over."


Sigh. I sure miss the old days.


Well, except for having to roll down the window and give hand signals.


Larry Penkava, a writer for Randolph Hub, thanks Bill Kirkman for his driving instruction. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.