Car Hand Signals In Case of Emergency: The Basics

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Carlos Kirby
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 · 4 min read
In the US, the use of car hand signals is an integral part of driver education. There’s a chance your brake lights or signal lights will stop functioning while you're behind the wheel. For experienced drivers, hand signals are something that occurs naturally, and it only takes a flash of the headlights, for instance, to signal another oncoming driver to take their turn.
Think of hand signals as everyday gestures, only that you're using universally accepted
signals for road safety
when your signal lights have an issue. If you're not yet familiar with hand signals, it would be best to know them because you never know when your car components may fail. Besides, it helps you
avoid conflict with other motorists
In case of an emergency situation, do you know your car hand signals?

Car hand signals: I'm stopping (or slowing down)

Perhaps traffic starts slowing down and your brake lights are off; it's critical to quickly alert the driver behind that you intend to slow down or stop. In that case, you should extend your hand outside the window with your fingers pointing downwards and your palm facing the driver behind you. 
It signals that you're decelerating and other drivers will easily understand that. 
As noted in
Car and Driver
: Do not rush to pull back your arm; take time and check your side mirrors to confirm that the driver following behind is aware of your intention and they've started slowing down. Maintain the signal until you come to a complete halt.

How about when you want to turn left?

It's critical to signal when making a left turn or switching lanes from right to left. Stick out your left arm through the window and stretch it straight with extended fingers and a forward-facing palm. Alternatively, you can point your index finger to the left if that's what you're accustomed to. Regardless, you must ensure the signal is clearly visible for other drivers to see. 
Remember that taking your left arm off the steering wheel may compromise your handling stability. Therefore, make sure you have a firm grip on the wheel before letting go of your left arm so that you don't strike other vehicles or objects with your arm. 
Only remove your arm when you've started making the turn. Besides, your car signals don't turn off until you've completely made the turn.

Car hand signals: Turning right

When you need to make a right turn, rest your left arm on the window sill make a right angle by bending your elbow and pointing your palm to the sky with your fingers straight.
Driving Tests
instructs that you maintain your arm in that position until you've turned, the same way you would turn off your signals after you started turning.
When you're changing lanes from left to right, you need to understand that the motorists already on the right may not likely see your hand signal from you're making from your driver's seat. It's critical to exercise extra caution when changing lanes to the right or making a right turn using hand signals. 
If possible, only use them when you've checked that there's a safe distance or no traffic on the right.
Motorcyclists and bicycle riders must also adhere to these hand signals because they're using the same roads as other car drivers. Finally, it is not advisable to drive at night when you're brake or signal lights are a problem. 
The darkness will not allow other motorists to see your car hand signals, and you'll be compromising your safety and that of other drivers.
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