Saturday, August 15, 2015

What does the Law Say About the Use of Turn Signals in Florida?

By Beau Blackwell

There seems to be a general idea out there that using a turn signal is optional.  Some people use their turn signal only a split second before they make the turn or change lanes, while others use the turn signal only until the turn is already in progress. 

It is baffling that most people just do not understand the purpose of the turn signal: to alert other drivers of your impending maneuver.  Maybe people forget that they are driving huge, chunks of steal, which can do massive damage.  Thousands of people die each year in avoidable deaths, and a person failing to use their turn signals just adds to the danger.  So what does the law say about the use of turn signals in Florida? Well, for one, they are not optional, but like all laws, it always depends on the circumstances.

Florida Statute 316.155 sets out the circumstances in which a turn signal is required. § 316.155(1), Fla. Stat.  Part one of the statue states: “No person may turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a highway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety, and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided, in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement.” 

The above portion of the statute has several parts.  First, a driver may only make a turn or lane change unless it is safe to do so.  Next, it states that a driver may only make the turn AFTER signaling. Remember! Blinker BEFORE the turn, not during or after. The turn signal is to notify other drivers of your turn. After the last paragraph, the statute adds that a driver only needs to signal if another driver would be affected by that turn.  Thus, if the driver is on the road alone, they don’t have to worry about the blinker. 

The Florida Supreme Court in State v. Riley further shed light on the turn signal asserting that “If no other vehicle is affected by a turn from the highway, then a signal is not required by the statute. If a signal is not required, then a traffic stop predicated on failure to use a turn signal is illegal and any evidence obtained as a result of that stop must be suppressed.” State v. Riley, 638 So. 2d 507 (Fla. 1994).

Part two of the turn signal statute states: “A signal of intention to turn right or left must be given continuously during not less than the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning”  § 316.155(1), Fla. Stat. In other words, a driver must signal well before they make a turn. 100 feet is around six car lengths.  Go out on the road in Florida and you will find that almost no one does this.  However, the Florida Supreme Court ruling in Riley also applies to this section of the statute.  Thus, a driver only needs to make this signal if another driver would be affected by the maneuver.

Ok. Now you know the law on turn signals.  So, please use them and be safe. 

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