The answer is yes, according to a new study conducted by the Society for Automotive Engineers. It says the failure to use or turn off a turn signal results in 2 million car accidents annually and is a far more serious problem than even distracted driving. According to the research, drivers either fail to use their turn signal when changing lanes or forget to turn if off a whopping 48 percent of the time. It found that when making a turn drivers failed to use their signals 25 percent of the time.
This equates to 2 billion times per day or 750 billion times per year that drivers fail to use their turn signals. The cause for the failure rates could be a simple lack of courtesy, laziness or improper training on when turn signals are required. Two million accidents per year is more than twice the number of car accidents linked to distracted driving, which has become a central topic of discussion at the U.S. Department of Transportation under Secretary Ray LaHood.
According to the author of the report, this subject has never been studied before and this is the first of its kind, which might explain some of the rather shocking findings. Although turn signals are simple, ubiquitous devices that are extremely effective, there is an endemic failure of compliance, even though by law drivers are required to use them.
Evidence would suggest that law enforcement places less priority on the enforcement of turn signal usage than it does on other traffic violations such as speeding, running red lights and failing to stop at stop signs. The study suggests one alternative to increasing enforcement could be new technology it calls the "Smart Turn Signal." Unlike Stability Control Systems, which predominantly prevent single-car accidents, the Smart Turn Signal would prevent multi-vehicle crashes.
It works by automatically shutting off the turn signal either by timing out after a pre-set delay, or by detecting when the car has changed lanes. This is similar to how turn signals automatically shut off after a car makes a turn. With today's electronics technology, it would actually be easier and less expensive to use than the mechanical trip mechanism used now. This could reduce multi-vehicle crash rates as well as the number of people injured or killed in car accidents each year while at the same time making cars less expensive.
Source: MSNBC.com, "Turn signal neglect a real danger, study shows," Paul A. Eisenstein, May 1, 2012