Dumb and Dangerous Driving - November 30, 2006

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It's a bad and annoying habit lots of drivers seem to have: zipping across traffic without using a turn signal.

The problem is so bad, a Richmond County deputy suggested we catch these violators on camera.

And we caught plenty of drivers switching lanes, turning, and treating the signal like it was just an option.

On a busy road, we spotted first a blue car, then a red car, then an SUV that didn't signal.

Then we saw one driver switching lanes several times signal-free.

"I think it's just laziness," said driver Meredith McGraw. "People are so into what they're doing, and they're dipping and dodging and zipping all over the road. There's no consideration for other drivers."

It's about more than manners.

Driving from one lane to the next without alerting other drivers is partly to blame for the hundreds of thousands of serious crashes in our area over the past ten years.

It takes our minds a couple of seconds to process things that happen on the road. When you signal, it gives people a heads up that you're about to make a change. But if you don't, drivers might not have enough time to react if you cut over. And that could lead to a crash.

Accidents become even more likely if you cut in front of something big.

"It's real hard to stop a truck," said semi truck driver Tony Brown. "We have like forty thousand pounds of weight behind us."

Trucks can also be hard to predict. We saw one zip through two lanes.

"You don't know which direction [people who don't signal are] going," said driver Brian Banlese. "They'll just turn, cut you off, something like that."

Or they stay put for a few minutes to ride your bumper and then cut over without their signal. We saw a truck and a car do it, one right after the other.

"Absolutely they need to signal. That's what it's there for," Meredith said. "I mean, how easy can it be? It's just right there."

You would think. But some people don't seem to know how to work the signal. Or maybe they think using it is optional. Or maybe they're just in too much of a hurry.

Of course, none of those excuses will work if you get pulled over. The Georgia driver's manual says you're supposed to hit your signal in enough time to give other drivers plenty of warning about your next move.