Basic Skills

When to use your indicators

5 min read • Oct 26, 2018
when-to-use-your-indicators

Whether you call it signalling, using the indicators, turning on the blinkers, or something else, letting other road users know what you’re doing is more than just a matter of good manners; it’s an essential part of road safety.

Surprisingly interesting facts about indicators

  • All new cars have been legally required to have flashing indicators since 1965.
  • Indicators were included on the MOT test in 1977.
  • They work because of a very clever but unfortunately-named piece of technology called a thermal flasher.

When to use indicators

Should I indicate when pulling away? – Yes

If it will make anyone – even a cyclist or pedestrian – aware of your intentions, you should use your indicators. If there’s nobody there to see, then it’s not necessary to signal, but doing so won’t cause you to fail a driving test.

Should I indicate when parking? – Yes

As above, if someone is nearby, use your signals. If nobody is around, you don’t have to signal but you can if it makes you feel more comfortable.

Should I indicate when moving around a parked car? – Not usually

Most of the time, you don’t need to indicate when moving around a parked car. You only need to if you must stop behind the parked car to allow oncoming traffic to pass and there are other vehicles behind you who may misinterpret your stopping as pulling over to park.

Should I indicate when overtaking? – Yes

You must always use your signals when overtaking another moving vehicle, regardless of the type of road you’re travelling on.

Should I indicate when at a roundabout? – Yes

If you’re turning left or right at a roundabout, you must signal the appropriate direction but you should not indicate if you plan to go straight. If turning right or straight, you must apply your left turn signal just after the exit before the one you intend to take. The rules for mini roundabouts are pretty much the same, except you don’t have to indicate to exit.

Should I indicate when when performing a turn in the road? – No

There’s no need to indicate when doing a turn in the road. If there’s another road user nearby you should not indicate, you should just wait for them to pass.

Should I indicate when performing a reverse around a corner? – Yes

Performing this manoeuvre involves pulling up just past the corner you intend to reverse around. If another road user is nearby, you may need to indicate to make it clear that you intend to pull the car up. Reversing around a corner can be tricky as it requires you to use your mirrors, a lot. Check out our best advice on mastering the reverse round a corner.

Should I indicate when parallel parking? – Yes

Performing this manoeuvre involves pulling up to the left, behind your target vehicle. When pulling up, it’s necessary to indicate if it will benefit other road users. After that, there’s no further need to indicate until the manoeuvre is complete and you’re about to pull away.

Should I indicate when merging? – Yes

When entering a motorway or dual carriageway via a slip road, you should use your right-hand turn signal when you’re about halfway down.

Should I indicate when changing lane? – Yes

If other road users are present, you must always signal when changing lanes, regardless of the type of road you’re travelling on.

Should I indicate when leaving a dual carriageway or motorway? – Yes

Dual carriageways and motorways both use markers that look like little slashes. Three slashes shows that you’re 300 yards from the exit, two slashes means 200 yards and a single slash means 100 yards. If you intend to exit, you should begin indicating from the 300 yard (three slash) marker.

How early should I start indicating?

In residential areas, you should start indicating when you’re about 100 feet from the turn you intend to make, assuming that your targeted turn is the closest turn to you. If there are other turns between you and your target, only begin indicating once you’re past them.

On fast roads like motorways and dual carriageways, follow the same process but extend the distance from 100 feet to around 900 feet.

What about hazard lights, when should I use those?

Activating your hazard lights turns on all of your car’s indicators at the same time, making your vehicle extra-conspicuous. You should only use your hazard lights if your car has broken down, if your car is obstructing traffic or to warn other road users if there’s a serious hazard up ahead.

You should not use them as an excuse to park your car improperly or as a ‘thank you’ signal to other drivers.

What if I forget to signal?

Your driving instructor will gently remind you if you forget to signal, but your test examiner will expect you to use your indicators/turn signals flawlessly. Just a single mistake could result in a fail, so make sure that you fully understand when to use signals/when to use indicators before you book your driving test.

Know what to do when there's sirens about?

Find out