Use of signals
A surprising amount of driving tests are failed due to the overuse, lack of or incorrect use of signals. Even what might appear a minor issue such as forgetting to cancel a signal after exiting a roundabout can easily fail a driving test.
Whilst learning to drive, there are times that a signal must be applied such as at junctions for example. Knowing when these times are along with the appropriate timings for applying signals is learnt reasonably easily with a driving instructor.
There are other situations for the correct use of signals that can take some time to master for learner drivers as it requires the ability to read the road ahead, assess any given situation and to decide if a signal is necessary, such as passing cyclists for example.
This guide on when to signal when driving should help learner drivers and also experienced drivers intending on taking the UK driving test to understand the correct use of signals.
When must you indicate
Whilst driving and during a driving test it is compulsory to indicate at junctions, roundabouts, left and right turns and whilst overtaking another moving vehicle. Other conditions may apply, all of which are explained in this section.
Listed are frequently asked questions by learner drivers and experienced drivers wishing to take the driving test. The following examples are what the driving examiner expects of a candidate during the practical driving test.
Should you indicate when parking up
Indicating when parking up essentially follow the same rules as when pulling away. If anyone will benefit, you must signal your intentions to park up. If no one will benefit, it is not necessary to indicate although you may still do if you wish.
Should you indicate when overtaking a cyclist
Whether to indicate when overtaking a cyclist depends entirely on the situation. If for example you are driving and notice a cyclist ahead and there is oncoming traffic, it then depends on the width of the road. If the road is wide enough to overtake the cyclist safely, but may result in your car being positioned a little towards the centre of the road, a signal will benefit the oncoming traffic as it will show them your intentions of overtaking the cyclist.
During the same situation, if the road isn't wide enough to pass the cyclist which will result in you needing to drastically slow down behind the cyclist to wait for oncoming vehicles to pass, as signal may be of benefit to vehicles behind. If you feel a vehicle is driving a little too close behind you, or that they may not see the cyclist you intend on slowing down for, a signal to the right before slowing down will provide the vehicles behind with a clearer indication of a potential hazard ahead.
It is however on the few occasions such as this that you should indicate when overtaking a cyclist. You must not simply indicate when passing every cyclist you meet as this will ultimately cause confusion with drivers thinking you are making a turn at a junction or driveway. You must assess each situation and indicate only if you think the benefits of doing so will increase the safety of yourself and others. See cyclists and cycle lanes for further information on dealing with cyclists during driving lessons and the driving test.
Do you indicate around parked cars
Generally it is not necessary to indicate around parked cars. There can however be the occasional exception and again this is down to the particular situation.
Should you indicate when overtaking
Yes you must always indicate when overtaking another moving vehicle whether on a single carriageway or dual carriageway. It is not mandatory however to signal to the left once you have passed the vehicle to acknowledge your intention of moving back onto your side of the road - although you may do so regardless.
Should you indicate at a roundabout
If intending to turn left or right on the approach to a roundabout, you must indicate in the direction you intend to take. If following the road straight at a roundabout, you should not indicate. If turning right or going straight, you must apply the left indicator just after the exit which is directly before the one you are taking. Upon leaving roundabouts, ensure all signals have terminated. See roundabouts for further help.
Should you indicate at a mini roundabout
Yes you must indicate on the approach to a mini roundabout just the same as a standard roundabout. The difference with a mini roundabout however is you do not need to provide the secondary exit signal as mini roundabouts are too small for this.
Should you signal during the turn in the road / 3 point turn
No there is no need to signal during the turn in the road. If there is a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian that may be affected by you performing this manoeuvre, you will need to wait until it is clear. Therefor there will never be a need to indicate. See turn in the road for further information on this driving test manoeuvre.
Should you signal during the reverse around a corner
As you are attempting this manoeuvre, you will drive a short distance past the left turn you intend on reversing into. Just as parking up, you may need to signal to other road users your intention of stopping the car. Generally elsewhere during the manoeuvre, there isn't usually a need to signal. Read the in-depth tutorial on reverse around a corner for further help.
Should you signal when parallel parking
During the driving test, the examiner will ask that you park up behind the vehicle that you will be parallel parking on. As this is essentially parking up on the left, you may need to signal to the left at this time as described above. Other than this, there shouldn't be any other reason to indicate during this manoeuvre. Find out more about parallel parking / reverse parking.
Indicating when merging
Whilst building up speed down a dual carriageway or motorway slip road, you should indicate to the right approximately half way down the slip road and once you have merged with traffic on the carriageway, cancel your signal.
Indicating when changing lanes
Whether on a motorway, dual carriageway or in a one-way-system in a city or town, you must indicate your intention to change lane if other vehicles are present.
Should you indicate to leave a motorway or dual carriageway
Dual carriageways and motorways display markers in the form of 3 dashes (300 yards), 3 dashes (200 yards) and 1 dash (100 yards) from the exit junction. You must indicate at the 300 yard marker. See dual carriageway tutorial for futher information.
How far in advance should you signal before making a turn
When driving in residential areas you should signal around 30 meters (100 feet) in advance of making a right or left turn. This is assuming there are no other turns on the same side of the road before the turn you intend on taking, else you will need to signal after this turn.
For high speed roads this distance increases. 70 mph dual carriageways for instance, signalling should start from around 275 meters (900 feet) from your exit