Driving and Recognizing Hand Signals

Driving hand signals

Many drivers will find themselves in a situation where they themselves or someone they are sharing the road with will need to use hand signals.  Brake lights and turn signals help keep everyone aware and safe on the road, but sometimes they go out on a vehicle. Bicyclists and motorcyclists also share the road and more commonly use hand signals. Knowing how to use and recognize these signals will help keep everyone on the road in better communication and prevent collisions and accidents.

There are three basic hand signals that mimic the three basic light uses on a vehicle; turning left, turning right, and stopping. These signals are always done with the left hand whether it is a driver, bicyclist, or motorcycle driver.

Photo Credit

Turning Left

When turning left, the proper hand signal is to stick the arm straight out of the vehicle. Some people will do two fingers to signal the turn so others on the road do not consider this as a nonchalant action. The hand signal is taught as the hand placed vertically, to make sure the intent is clear.

Turning Right

When wanting to turn right, the left arm is extended out the window and held at a 90-degree angle. This is especially handy for drivers because they are unable to stick a hand or arm out of the right or passenger side of the vehicle. The hand is flat and fingers straight up.


When stopping, it is important to let anyone behind you on the road know to avoid them running into you. For drivers, the arm is extended down at an angle with the palm facing backward with a bend in the elbow to get over the car window frame. For bicyclists and motorcyclists, the arm is usually straight and extended outward with the palm facing backward.

To stay safe, do not rely on the stopping signal alone. It is important to also glance over the shoulder or a rear-view mirror to be sure the signal is noticed. While this is the universal sign for stopping, drivers are usually looking for brake lights on a car to indicate the action and may not notice the driver signaling.

For bicyclists and motorcyclists, the signals are more noticeable, but it is more dangerous to be hit. Make sure the signal is always very clear and then watch your surroundings. If the person behind you does not notice your signal or that you are stopping, there may be time and opportunities to move out of the way before being hit.

Remember the Signs

Learning the signs once for a driving test is not good enough for drivers and cyclists to be safe. Most drivers do not anticipate needing to use the signals, but it is important to know them if your lights go out. If you take up biking or buy a motorcycle, it is important to know the signs for sharing the road with vehicles. If not, you should still remember the hand signals so you can watch for them. These are taught in teen driving courses and should be remembered and observed just like turn signals.

Which is Deadlier: Drowsy Driving or Drunk Driving?

Drowsy Driving vs Drunk Driving

The average adult does not get enough sleep during the night. There are several contributing factors to this and many health problems, but it also leads to problems on the roads. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety took data on driving behaviors for 2018 and found that those who are not getting enough sleep are four times more likely to crash than drivers who are getting at least seven hours of sleep.

Drowsy Driving vs. Drunk Driving

There have been several organizations over the last few decades that have made it a priority to educate the public on the dangers of drunk driving. While new student drivers are being taught about the risks of drowsy driving, there are not major campaigns to educate the public on its dangers. Many drivers still know that it is dangerous, yet almost a third of drivers polled admit to driving when overly tired in the last month. This means there is still a big problem on the roads that needs more education.

When it comes to drowsy driving, the dangers are in the body’s functions. When the body is overly tired, the reaction times are slower. Pushing on the brake or steering quickly if cut off, there is a hazard in the road, or anything else requires quick reflexes and thinking. When tired, the body cannot react as it would normally, like reaction times when driving drunk.

Another part of drowsy driving is that the driver can fall asleep for a second or two while driving. This is an added level of danger because the car is moving uncontrolled. The danger increases the faster a car is driving too. When people are going for long drives, they tend to be on roads with a higher speed limit.

Signs You’re Tired

Most people are aware of when they are tired, but when driving, these signs should get extra attention. The most common signs are:

  • Struggling to keep eyes open
  • Vision goes in and out of focus
  • Drifting from your lane
  • Not remembering the last few miles driven
  • Missing signs or turns
  • Frequent yawning

If you notice these behaviors, you are too tired to be driving. Do not try and push through to get to your destination. Instead, there are other things you can do to wake up. Try pulling off the road into a safe area to walk around the car a few times. Take a drink of water or eat something. This can help get the blood flowing and wake you up more. If you have a long way to drive still, pull off in a safe spot and take a nap. Sleep experts say that a quick, 20 to 30-minute nap is all that is needed to become rested. While this may seem frustrating to delay your trip, it is more important to arrive safely.

The most dangerous drivers are those who don’t recognize potential dangers. Being a responsible driver is making the right choices to keep yourself and others on the road safe. Don’t become a danger to others by not recognizing your limitations. You would never drive drunk, so don’t drive drowsy.