As a driver, one of the most basic elements of
road safetyis using your turn signals. It shows consideration for pedestrians and fellow motorists, and reduces the chances of getting rear-ended when slowing into a turn.
With this in mind, Mini’s ambitious attempt to incorporate the Union Jack (the national flag of the U.K.) into its turn signals has a few people scratching their heads.
Mini has managed to turn one of the simplest aspects of car design, a blinking light conveying which way you are going, into a confusing and somewhat dangerous design faux pas.
What’s wrong with Mini’s turn signals?
Mini is notorious for incorporating playful design elements into its cars, and a recent example is the advent of Union Jack tail lights. They are automatically included on all models sold in the U.K., and are a popular add-on in the U.S.
To be fair to Mini’s design team, the flags look great as tail lights, a fun homage to the Mini’s British heritage, but when a driver signals a turn, a pretty major flaw becomes apparent.
As reported by
Jalopnik, the flag-inspired turn signals appear as flickering arrows, much like those seen on fire engines or ambulances. However, and this is kind of a problem, the arrows point the wrong way!
The model in which this flaw is most apparent is the Mini Countryman. Due to its very narrow tail lights, the Union Jack flag is split in two, which creates the illusion of two arrows pointing inwards, towards one another.
Consequently, if you indicate right, a left-pointing arrow begins flashing, and if you indicate left, the opposite happens.
A uniquely American problem
In the U.K., where the tail lights are included as standard on all new models, there doesn’t appear to be an issue. This is because instead of the flashing arrow, the turn signal is just an illuminated orange bar, and not the entire half flag.
Jalopnik explains this is the same way in which aftermarket Union Jack tail lights work too. Unfortunately, on new North American Minis, the horizontal bar is accompanied by diagonal bars above and below, creating the illusion of an inverted arrow.
There is no data publicly available on how many American drivers have opted for the Union Jack tail lights, and it can’t be causing too many issues or we would have heard about it sooner.
None-the-less, we would expect Mini (and their German owners BMW) to remedy the oversight before long.