How to Use Driver Hand Signals

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Hands of Car Driver on Steering Wheel/Image Credit: rcphotostock

There’s a whole lot that you can communicate with a gesture of your hand. That ability to communicate through hand signals becomes important when you’re driving and don’t have the usual signals you would rely on to communicate with other drivers. For those situations, here are some driver hand signals that you can use to communicate with other drivers and let them know that you’re stopping, turning, or changing lanes.

When to Use Hand Signals

In most cases, you can depend on your vehicle to communicate to other drivers all on its own. When you apply the brakes to slow down, the brake lights in the rear of your vehicle will illuminate to let other drivers know that you’re changing speed. When you intend to make a turn, you should use the appropriate indicator for the direction you’re going to maneuver in. Both of these different signals allow drivers time to anticipate what you’re doing.

This communication is essential to staying safe on the road, which makes situations where your brake lights or turn signals fail somewhat dangerous. However, different hand signals can be used to convey the messages that you would usually rely on your brake lights or turn signals for. This can alert other drivers to your intentions on the road so that they’re not caught off guard by any sudden moves or changes in speed you make.

These hand signals aren’t just for when your blinkers aren’t working. You should use hand signals anytime you suspect other drivers might not see your signals. For example, California’s DMV states, “If bright sunlight makes the signal lights hard to see, also use hand-and-arm signals.”

Another good time to use hand signals is when your hazard lights are on. If you’re driving on a spare tire to the tire shop, you should turn hazard lights on. But the hazard lights will flash both blinkers at the same time – making it impossible to signal to others when you’re turning. Hand signals will come in handy then.

Different Hand Signals That Drivers Use

We see now the importance that hand signals can have when certain components of your vehicle aren’t working correctly. But how exactly do you use signals to communicate the different maneuvers you might make on the road? Here are the three essential hand signals that you need to know in case something goes wrong with your brake lights or turn signals.

Signal for Stop

It’s essential to let other drivers know when you’re going to be slowing down or coming to a stop. This allows them to adjust their speed in anticipation of you slowing down ahead of them.

Start out by extending your hand out the driver’s side window, making sure to stick it out enough that it’s noticeable to other drivers. Turn your arm down towards the road, then extend your fingers out with your palm facing backward towards any drivers who might be behind you. This signal is universal enough that most other drivers should recognize it but be sure to check your mirrors to ensure the other drivers are in fact slowing down.

Sign for Turning Left

Signaling that you’re going to turn is essential for keeping you, your passengers, and those in other vehicles safe. The vehicles behind you will need to slow down to accommodate your own deceleration as you prepare to turn and seeing your signal will give them time to do so.

The hand signal for a left-hand turn is fairly straightforward. Open your car’s driver-side window and stick your arm out straight so that it’s parallel with the road. Extend your fingers out to the left to make the signal more visible so that other drivers can easily understand your intention. It’s also best to maintain your hand signal until you begin the left turn to give other drivers enough time to see that you’re turning.

Right Turn Hand Signal

You may be wondering how to signal for a right-hand turn since you’re driving on the left-hand side of the vehicle. This signal involves extending your left arm out the driver’s side window with your elbow bent so your arm is turned upward. Extend the palm of your hand and your fingers upwards to signify your intention to turn. Like with a left turn, you’ll want to keep the signal going until you begin to make your turn.

With these useful hand signals in your repertoire, you’ll be ready to handle unexpected situations on the road when you can’t rely on your brake lights or turn signals to do the job for you. Need to get your lights fixed? Here’s some helpful advice for when you take your vehicle into the shop. Is your current ride turning into more trouble than it’s worth? Find a new one today!