Inside Insurance: Use your turn signal, please

Have you noticed that more and more drivers seem to forget to use that stick on the left side of the steering column right behind the steering wheel?

The vehicle’s manual refers to it as the turn signal indicator. That’s the gadget that let’s other drivers know if you plan to change lanes, turn left or right or make any other change in your direction of travel.

I learned to drive before there were turn signals, so all I could do is put my left arm straight out before turning left, up at the elbow to turn right, and down at the elbow to indicate slowing down.

Many drivers are perceptive enough to realize that others on the road would like to know how they plan to make a move on the roadway, but others seem to be too busy while using their smartphones, or their GPS or talking to passengers to remember that there are many others on the road with them who don’t like surprises.

Driving, in many respects, is a team sport.

The same cautions apply to those who encounter an emergency vehicle on the side of the road with lights flashing. Even if there is no state law requiring such action, motorists should respect the activities of police, fire and ambulance crews to move over one lane it at all possible to not pass these public servants directly in the lane closest to them.

On a two-lane road, consider moving over as far to the left as possible to give them as much room as possible. This is another situation where turn signals are important.

Let’s not forget our road partners on motorbikes, motorcycles and bicycles. I continue to read about motorcyclists dying or sustaining serious injuries on the roadways after tangling with a car or truck. Often these crashes involve the car or truck driver that didn’t see the cyclist. Here comes the issue of distracted driving or failure to respect the space these folks are entitled to.

I never cease to be amazed at the number of pedestrians that put their lives at risk trying to cross a street in a pedestrian crossing area, much less where there are no market crossings. Simple courtesy is one thing, but traffic laws are another.

While on the subject of courtesy and the law, my favorite saying I’m prone to mumble is, "What part of stop don’t you understand," when watching impatient drivers at a 4-way stop intersection. Police have been showing up parked up the street from such an intersection just to see who get the rule and who doesn’t. Those who do not usually pay the price if law enforcement is watching.

One of those necessary evils we all face behind the wheel is road construction. From interstates to local roads, fixing problems, resurfacing or widening seems to be the order of the day. That is the time to really pay attention to the flaggers, the signs and your fellow motorists.

There is one more issue that we as motorists should consider every time we leave our vehicle after parking. Georgia was ranked 4th in the nation in 2010 for the most stolen vehicles in the nation. Only Florida, Texas and California were ranked higher.

In Georgia, the bad guys took off with 303,054 stolen vehicles. That’s much less than the 1.52 million stolen vehicles in California, but it is enough to affect your auto insurance rates. For that matter, all the issues we have reviewed in this column can have a negative affect on your auto insurance.

For our own sake, let’s all keep in mind job-one behind the wheel. Watch out for our own safety, for other vehicles regardless of the number of wheels they may have, and those on foot near or on the roadways.