What's that blinking on my instrument panel?


By Al Vinikour 

By now, regular readers of my diatribes know the two things I hate the most in this world…that creepy Burger King guy in their commercials…and people who don’t use turn signals. I have now added a third…people who don’t realize their turn signals are on.

How many times have you closed in on the vehicle in front of you, only to notice its turn signal is blinking? It’s second nature to slow down because it’s inevitable the vehicle will be turning (thus the moniker turn signal) soon. You figure it will turn at the next intersection. No, that wasn’t it. Probably the next one. No, it’s not that one, either.  Well…maybe he’ll turn into a driveway in mid-block. No…it’s not the case. Then it dawns on you that this idiot doesn’t know (or doesn’t care) that his turn signal is on.

Generally there’s a soft click to indicate the signal is in use (unless you’re in a Jaguar, and then it sounds like a kettle drum). Okay, benefit of the doubt time; maybe the driver is hearing impaired. But I’m willing to bet that he or she isn’t sight-impaired. What do you think that blinking green arrow on your instrument panel is, Harold? And don’t give me any crappy excuse that you can’t read Morse code.

Sometimes I’ll try to be the good guy and when I pass someone who has their turn signal flashing – especially the left one when we’re on the freeway, I’ll start blinking my turn signals – a few times left and then a few times right. I’ll continue to do this until Einstein back there wonders what’s wrong with the guy who just passed me up…or gets the clue  to check his own turn signals. If I see them go off then I’ve “claimed that land for Spain.” If he still doesn’
t get the message then he’s not worth spending more time with. He probably still thinks the world is flat.

I have a lot more patience for truckers. They’re sitting up much higher and not all of them have outside turn signal lights that can be seen from the cab. However, sometimes they’re either “10-4 good buddying” or listening to their iP
od and don’t hear the clicking of their own turn signals. Truckers are more attuned to “road talk” and will notice things like the vehicle in front of them sending signals. I would estimate my successes with truck drivers are in the low-90% range.

Non-truck vehicles successes are much lower – probably in the 60% range. What’s particularly puzzling are those who don’t notice the warning when it’s dark outside. Wouldn’t a car in front of you that’s turn signaling all over the place peak your curiosity? Do you notice a lot of cars in the far left lane of an interstate using its left turn signal, Kevin? I always thought the only people who were this observant must have worked for me at one time.

Almost 20 years ago I test-drove a Pontiac Grand Prix and it had this sensor that if one of its turn signals was blinking for over a half-mile it would automatically shut them off.  Brilliant!!!!  Why in the holy name of Orville Redenbacher isn’t that standard equipment on every vehicle produced throughout the world? The cost would be negligible in the quantities we’re talking about and it would be one more safety item. Not only that, it would be one less thing an apparently dim-bulbed driver would have to worry about.

If manufacturers won’t equip vehicles with the aforementioned sensors then I have a suggestion. A satellite should be put into geosynchronous orbit that can map every interstate highway in North America. If it detects a vehicle whose turn signal has been on for a distance of one mile (let’s start off conservatively), a laser beam shot directly into the blinking turn signal will end the problem. Maybe it will cost drivers a lot of money to have their signals repaired. But I’ll guarantee you one thing, Sammy…those drivers will never fail to ensure their turn signals are off again.

“How will this be paid for”, as Congress likes to ask? Easy. Because there will be a massive increase in business for Dealers’ Service Centers and all those independent repair shops the assessing of a 10% override will eventually pay for creation, launching and maintenance of the satellite. After that’s paid for the extra monies can be used to launch a new area of studies in colleges and universities. Think how proud a parent would be when his son or daughter earns a degree in Turn Signal Sciences.

And just think…all of this began when some dumb, spaced out cluck didn’t notice his turn signal was still blinking. This should prove a lesson to all graduates entering the business work force — the world is your oyster…now go out and find your pearls.