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Whither Thou Goest

Long ago, in the last century, some of our readers may remember that many cars had no directional signals. If a driver wanted to turn left, it required rolling down a window and sticking one’s hand straight out. If turning right, the hand went up at a 90-degree angle. If slowing down, the proper thing was to point the hand and arm downward. Whether the weather was cold, rainy or hot, folks seemed to be able to handle the inconvenience and give other drivers warning as to what they were up to.

In 1913, Richard Spikes, a black engineer, invented the directional signals for cars although it was many years before they became a standard feature. His next contribution to ease in driving was his patent for the automatic gear-shift in 1932 and perhaps for fun, he invented a beer keg tap as well. But we digress.

Our point here is that we have noticed that increasingly drivers stop abruptly without any flashing lights or turn left or right or change lanes without signaling. It is especially annoying to be stopped at a traffic light, hoping to make a left turn smoothly and wondering if the opposite car is turning left or going straight. We have our blinkers duly winking, signaling our intentions, and most often, the opposite car makes that left while we just sit there waiting in wonderment...what will the next car in line do?

But the issue is more than annoying. Driving has become tougher, requiring extra vigilance to be a defensive driver, what with people preoccupied with their cell phones and conversations and, yikes, texting. Knowing where other drivers are planning to turn and stop is a safety issue that helps us anticipate their moves and adjust ours accordingly.

Safe driving is a skill, but must we now be clairvoyant too?

—- Carol Frank