Don't use your turn-signal? Which vice controls you?

This week I've had the annual experience in the increase in traffic on Phoenix roadways. I can only assume that rush hour is worse because school started this past week, but its bad these days. All this extra time in the car gives me more time to contemplate...too often about the very traffic I'm in!

Today, I wanted to record my initial thoughts on the use of turn signals. I am amazed at how many people do not use them to signal lane changes or even 90 degree turns onto cross streets or parking lots! Failing to signal what one's intention is causes all sorts of problems in the flow of traffic. This got me to thinking,

Why would a person not use their turn signal?

Initially, I think there are two types of people that do not use their turn-signal: those that know they should, and those who do not know. This latter group, those that don't know, really would be those who are not licensed to drive, and really shouldn't be on the roadways. (OK- there are some exceptions, like teenagers and others who are learning to drive) But honestly, this represents a small minority.

The vast majority of drivers know the rules of the road, or at least had to at one point, in order to get their license. There is a test - they cannot use an "I didn't know" for why they did not use a turn signal. Thus, I think there are really only 4 reasons (and maybe all a variation of two) for not using a turn signal to signal your intention to change lanes or turn while driving.

1. The turn signal is broken (light out, cable frayed, level busted, etc)

2. Laziness

3. Self-centeredness

4. Failure to think ahead while driving

Really, even these four reasons I think really fall into Laziness or Self-centeredness. Let's look:

"No one is around me." Talking on the phone. Realizing that the other lane of traffic is shorter at the light and just real quickly switching lanes without a signal.

Even if you were the only one on a road, the fact is using a turn signal is the law. That means that not obeying is laziness in this instance - not want to take the time to move a hand from the steering wheel, lap, food being eaten, cell phone, or stereo to the level to click on the turn signal. I mean, they even turn off automatically - it doesn't take much effort, but so many of us don't use it because we are just lazy physically or mentally. I think to some respects, even the broken turn signal could be laziness - for not getting it fixed, or at least not using the hand signals that are also discussed in the rules to signal out the drivers side window. (Quiz: How many know what those are?) But basically if we do not use our turn signal out of lack of doing, or changing something we are doing, is laziness in this case. Laziness differentiates because I think we are not consciously doing something specifically for our own benefit or at the expense of someone else. We just don't think or choose not to do.

Also, the failure to think ahead is partially lazy. If you are not thinking about where you are going, or even in an auto-mode mentally (and this happens to all of us at times!) we get lazy! One caveat to this thinking ahead which is not lazy is emergency action based on what someone else, or the road conditions, happen in front of us. Swerving for a deer that comes out of the trees isn't laziness, it's reactionary!

In comparison to laziness, I think there is more an element of consciously choosing not to obey the law in this motivation. "I simply don't need to use it." "I'm not hurting anyone." "I don't agree with the law." "I'm going faster than they are so it isn't a big deal." Even sometimes to spite the other person in the lane...hinting at road rage!

Anytime you don't use it just because you don't feel that you need to, or because you are trying to get where you are going and are not concerned or care about other drivers, the motivation is self-centeredness. Being selfish while driving happens all the time in many aspects. Rush hour is a prime example of that. Not using a turn signal just is one demonstration of it. "I don't care if the others around me know what my intentions are or not, I am going where I am going." I think a lot of people have this rationale...even if they do not verbalize it. Self-centered driving is different than laziness because the motivation is active, rather than ignorance (like laziness would be). I am just choosing to do my own thing.

Honestly, I cannot think of a situation that you could not boil down to one of these two motivations (which you could say are two forms of selfishness, anyway). The common factor is the motivations are both vices. They are both negatives. 

And this is the point - not whether or not someone uses their turn-signal as right or wrong, but in the self-realization that what motivates us is a vice, not a virtue. There can be no positive political statement being made, not righteous activity, in not using it. If anyone has an example of another motivation, particularly a positive virtuous one, I truly would love to hear it. I don't think it exists.

While I am not on a crusade to vilify those who don't use turn-signals, I think we need to look at our daily actions and understand why we do what we do. In this case, I think there are only negative reasons to choose to not use a turn signal. They are symptomatic of a condition of our character, which is where my real concern lies. I want to help others, to be considerate and safe around other human beings who have equal worth and significance that I do. Do I treat them this way, by obeying a simple traffic law?

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