Over the last few years I’ve noticed a steady, but lately accelerating decline in the use of those funny orange flashing things on either side of cars. When I was young, I was taught that they were called ‘indicators’ or ‘blinkers’. Technically speaking, they are supposed to be used to ‘indicate’ to other road users and pedestrians that you wish to make a turn or change lanes. I have one of these indicator thingies in my car and I find it fairly easy to use both from a dexterity point of view and from a cognitive one ie. remembering to use it in the appropriate manner at the appropriate times.
But lately, I have found that there are a number of grey areas here. Firstly, the matter of who needs to indicate. From being a motorist for the last 30+ years and a bike commuter for the past 8, I’ve seen a fair bit of motoring action and I have steadily come to the conclusion that while failure to indicate when turning or changing lanes is still a legal offence, Mercedes owners must be somehow exempted. I wondered whether this rule was based on some sort of cost or prestige scale, given that Mercedes cars are relatively expensive and prestigious, but I can’t say that I have noticed owners of other prestige makes like BMW, Porsche or Audi not using indicators on a ‘more than regular’ basis. I mean, if they were exempted too, like Mercedes owners, they just wouldn’t be indicating. I tried searching for a ‘Mercedes’ exemption in the road laws and wasn’t able to find anything to that effect. Of course it’s possible that this knowledge is only passed on in a ‘needs to know’ basis ie. when you buy a Mercedes from a Mercedes dealer, and hence why there seems to be no reference to it anywhere.
I then wondered whether Mercedes even included indicators in their cars anymore. I remember driving a friend’s old Merc for a little while many years ago when I was between cars and it had an indicator. But it’s possible at some point since then, they phased them out, being unnecessary and all. I will have to go and check out a few new Mercs at a showroom and see if they have them. I guess if they do end up having them, it’s probably more of a ‘compliance’ thing and that it’s possibly cheaper to leave them in the production process than to take them out. Kind of like how we humans still have an appendix.
The second thought I had was around ‘when’ you should indicate. The whole purpose of them is to make your change of direction known to others so they have time to anticipate and react to this change, thereby avoiding collisions and damage to people and property. A frightening number of motorists I come across these days seem to think that indicating ‘as’ you are turning or changing lanes is OK (Mercedes drivers of course don’t have to worry about this technicality). I can assure them, it’s not OK and often causes a great many unnecessary heartbeats to those in their immediate vicinity. I imagine they think that indicating at the last possible moment makes them compliant with the law, at least if any legal situation arises where they may need to defend themselves. They would be able to say with hand-on-heart conviction, “I used my indicator”. Very similar to the completely disingenuous “I didn’t go through the red light” defence that some cyclists use after riding up onto the footpath at a set of traffic lights and then back onto the road twenty metres further on. Very fucking clever.
My plea to non or as-you-turn indicators – If you’re the type that finds indicating simply too much to bear while you’re driving and you have decided for some unknown reason not to buy a Mercedes, or perhaps, sadly can’t afford even their cheapest model, then just don’t bother to indicate at all. Doing it ‘while’ you’re turning just makes you look weak and frankly, pretty pathetic. Just turn or merge whenever you want and everyone else, other motorists, cyclists, motor cyclists and pedestrians will just have to anticipate your wishes and stay the hell out of your way. I expect one of the most frustrating parts about people getting upset with you when you don’t indicate is their seemingly total lack of understanding of the importance of your journeys, not to mention their mindless and inconsiderate rantings after you almost kill them via your self-indulgence. I’m sure you’ll agree that these ungrateful sods must learn to give privilege its due respect and start behaving themselves in a more appropriate manner.