Have you ever been driving and the motorist beside you suddenly enters your lane without warning, neglecting to use either hand signals or an indicator? Not only can this experience be frustrating, it is also very dangerous and among the numerous driver-related factors that contribute to crashes.
The turn signals or indicators are a vital safety feature that, under the Road Traffic Law in Jamaica, is required to be used by drivers during operation of their vehicle. However, the problem of drivers turning without using their signals is not unique to Jamaica.
Duane Ellis, General Manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), says a study conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States of America (USA), found that almost 2 million car crashes in the USA could be attributed to drivers not using their turn signals properly.
“The study also found that drivers didn’t use their turn signals 25 percent of the time when making turns, and 48 percent of the time when changing lanes,” Mr Ellis explained.
Crashes caused by direct driver actions, such as failure to use indicators, account for 89 percent or more than 63,000 crashes that occurred on Jamaican roads during the course of ten years and documented in a comprehensive crash mapping survey prepared by the Mona GeoInformatics Institute.
“This has a lot to do with poor driver behaviour, an issue that is at the heart of some of the interventions, which the JAA has been making as part of our activities in support of the United Nation’s Decade of Action for Road Safety initiative,” Mr Ellis said.
Among the five pillars of the Decade of Action, priority has been placed on improving road user behaviour at the national level through changes in Road Traffic laws, increased use of seatbelts and child restraints, speed management, and the use of motor cycle helmets. These messages are emphasized by the JAA through its ongoing “Safe Driving, Saves Lives” campaign.
Gary McKenzie, Deputy Superintendent in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Traffic Division says “Turn signals must be used at all times once a driver decides to make a turn, whether right or left.”
He further explained that, “Turn signals are important in advising drivers approaching and following the vehicle, so that they can take the appropriate precautions to allow the turn and prevent collisions,” noting that “it is an offence to turn without indicating and it presently attracts a fine of $800.”
Mr Ellis hopes that the fines associated with this offence will also be increased as part of amendments being made to the Road Traffic Act, which will be implemented in 2015.