The rules on signalling


The in basket: Rod Gross of Poulsbo writes, “I so often see cars that fail to use their turn signals for not only

actual turns right or left, but also for simple lane changes, that I wonder what the laws dictate in that regard.

“Is it in fact illegal NOT to use your turn signal when turning or changing lanes, and how often do the local, and state police actually stop and ticket people for failure to signal?

Also, what are the penalties for failure to signal?  Arguably they are insufficient because the practice  of failing to signal is literally rampant.”

The out basket: Yes, the law requires signaling any turn or lane change, even while entering or leaving a freeway or entering a turn lane.

Signaling while entering or leaving a roundabout is recommended by the state, but it is my understanding that a Port Orchard court case that nullified a DUI arrest says otherwise at single-lane roundabouts. The initial reason for the stop was failure to signal a lane change at the Highway 166 roundabout, so the driver didn’t change lanes.

If that ruling has been overturned, I’m hoping someone will set me straight.

I added to Ross’s inquiry when I passed it along to State  Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the patrol here. It admittedly was self-serving because 69-year-old me is a text-book example of an aged driver who regularly forgets to turn off his turn signal after a lane change.

I asked if that is a violation, if the signal must continue throughout the lane change or turn or can be stopped as the turn begins, when I’m more likely to remember.

Russ said, “The law states that you must signal for ‘not less than the last 100 feet traveled’ prior to turning or moving left or right. Could you turn the signal off after 100 feet and then move left or right ? According to the RCW, yes, as long as you immediately start the movement into the other lane. Any lengthy delay  -a second or two at most – would give another motorist reason to believe that the driver either mis-signaled or decided not to change lanes.

“The whole idea behind signaling a turn or lane change is to alert other drivers that SOMETHING is about to occur with a vehicles path or direction of travel.”

Bad news for me on the leaving-the-signal-on front. “Yes,” Russ said, “it is a violation to leave your signal on long after a lane change is complete. Again, driving down the roadway with your signal on with no intent to do anything is hazardous to other motorists due to the false expectations it creates.”

Signaling violations, including that one, carry a $124 fine. “Yes, we do stop motorists for failing to signal, improper signal, no signal, on a regular basis,” Russ said.

“To an officer, this is valid reason to stop and talk with this driver. It could mean several things. Possibly the driver just did not signal. Possibly the driver has an equipment problem, light out or signal indicator not functioning. Possibly the driver was impaired and did not realize the signal was left on or notice a lamp problem.

“Drivers that do not follow basic safe travel rules of the road create a hazard for everyone on the road,” Russ said.


7 thoughts on “The rules on signalling

  1. Might want to pass this on to the Bremerton police department. Many times I have seen them change lanes, or stop at a light then turn without benefit of a signal. Maybe too busy wth their cell phones. I also see the Access bus driving around town with all the signals going. I guess that’s so they don’t forget to signal when they are going to pull over, into traffic, or turn.

  2. Thanks for finally dealing with the issue of drivers not signaling. When I raised it several months ago you pretty much blew me off.

  3. Travis…Why don’t they make a few signs for the local round-abouts (rotaries) that simply read: “Use turn signals when in round-about”. It can’t cost THAT much and would definitely help the problem!

  4. There’s an easy solution to avoid leaving your turn signal on after changing lanes. Just hold the bar up or down to signal without engaging it and then let go after you’ve made your lane change. I believe turn signals are designed with that purpose in mind and every car I’ve ever driven gives you that option.

    Just a peeve – if you want to enter my lane, try letting me know by using your signal instead of hovering next to me for half a mile and expecting me to read your mind.

  5. Mr. Travis Baker,

    Just a quick thank you for publishing and addressing my question regarding use of turn signals. Much appreciated.



  6. I’ll admit that I am guilty of this. I use my turn signal where I feel it is needed.

    If I’m getting on the freeway, if you can’t figure out that I’m coming into that right lane, you’re an idiot. What am I going to do, drive on the shoulder?

    If I’m exiting the freeway, I don’t use it because I don’t slow down (unless necessary) until I’m on the off-ramp so, if I’m in front of you and my speed doesn’t change then you shouldn’t care if I’m exiting and if I’m behind you, you have even less reason to care.

    If I’m in a right or left turn lane, where do you think I’m going? I’m turning.

    Most other times I use it.

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