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Taking a turn for the worse


THIS IS FOR all you motorists who never bother to use your turn signals, especially the fellow in the gray Honda Accord who suddenly made a sharp right turn into the Dunkin' Donuts on York Road early yesterday, causing the brown Toyota Corolla (me) behind him to swerve dangerously into the left lane and nearly sideswipe a bus, which was not how I had envisioned the morning starting off.

First, a few words about your car's turn signal.

The turn signal is located to the left-hand side of the steering wheel.

As the name implies, it is to be used when making a turn.

In fact, many of you (perhaps even the fellow in the Accord) might be interested to know that there is actually a motor vehicle statute that says a motorist must use his or her turn signal when turning.

(I know, I know . . . where do they get off ordering you to do anything. What is this, Nazi Germany?)

As to the actual operation of the turn signal, let's go over that, too, shall we?

When making a left turn, push the turn signal down. However, when making a right (into, say, a Dunkin' Donuts), push the turn signal -- stay with me here -- up.

To repeat: down when making a left, up when making a right.

Left: down. Right: up.

Now perhaps you're thinking: "Oh, c'mon, who can remember all that?! Besides, what's the big deal if I'm preoccupied with a dozen jelly doughnuts and forget to use my turn signal?"

Well, OK, here is the problem with not using your turn signal.

Let's say you're driving along, singing a song, when suddenly and without warning you decide to make a sharp right turn into a store in order to act on this strange craving for doughnuts.

The first thing you might notice is the terrible screech of brakes behind you.

Often this will be followed by the sound of metal crunching and glass tinkling to the pavement.

If you listen closely enough, you might also hear the wail of ambulance sirens and other emergency vehicles headed, strangely enough, in the direction of the very Dunkin' Donuts you've just entered.

OK, what has happened is this: There has been an accident.

See, when you failed to use your turn signal and suddenly slammed on your brakes, the driver of the car behind you slammed on his brakes before veering crisply into that telephone poll.

Then the driver of the dump truck behind him slammed on his brakes, only he was a little too late and actually smacked into the car in front of him. Which caused the driver of the car behind him to slam on his brakes and plow into the dump truck.

By the way, all this screeching of tires would account for that prominent odor of burned rubber that you smelled as you strolled into the Dunkin' Donuts.

And while you're making small talk with the waitress and eyeing up the crullers, if you peek out the window, you'll notice the paramedics breaking out IV lines and fitting people with neck braces, wrist splints and the like.

Now perhaps you're thinking: "Did I cause all that? The three-car pileup and the cop directing traffic and the firemen hosing down the road and the emergency techs screaming for stretchers?"

Well, yes. Yes, you did. See, by not using your turn signal, you thoughtlessly caused pain and suffering for the drivers of the three vehicles behind you. Not to mention the lost revenues for Dunkin' Donuts due to all the emergency vehicles now blocking the store's entrance.

I hope you're proud of yourself.

On a related note, there is another type of turn signal offender who is an equally strong candidate for a good smack.

I'm talking about you people who use your turn signal all the time. You use it when turning into Dunkin' Donuts. You use it when turning in your neighborhood. You use it when merging onto the interstate.

There is just one small problem: You forget to turn the damn thing off.

So you drive mile after mile after mile with the radio blaring, oblivious to the fact that your turn signal is flashing, indicating an imminent right or left turn.

This poses obvious problems for the driver of the car behind you (who is usually, for some strange reason, me.)

All the while I'm riding the brake and thinking: Is he going to turn here? Or here? Or here or here or here?

Pretty soon, of course, I start to hate you. Although not as much as I hate the driver of the gray Honda Accord that nearly sent me into that bus.

Him I really can't stand.

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