Driving Hand Signals Explained

With modern road vehicles having the advantage of electronic light signals, the use of driving hand signals is for the majority of time unnecessary these days, very rarely used.

Part of the training process for driving instructors involves driving hand signals, which they convey to their learner drivers.

However, hand signals are so infrequently used or needed in real-life driving that many driving instructors do in fact not even cover this part of the training process for their learner drivers.

There are certain situations where knowing the appropriate driving hand signals may become helpful and in certain circumstances essential. Detailed are driving hand signals with diagrams and possible reasons why you need them.

What are the driving hand signals

The driving hand signals are as follows:

Driving hand signals explained
Driving hand signals explained
  • Hand signals for turning left
    Extend the right hand at shoulder level, palm facing forward, and rotate it in an anti-clockwise direction.
  • Hand signals for turning right
    Extend the right hand at shoulder level with palm facing forward.
  • Hand signals for slowing down
    Extend the right hand at shoulder level with palm facing downward, and wave it downwards and upwards.

When you may need driving hand signals

The most essential reason for the use of hand signals is if your vehicle has electronic signalling failure, or more commonly if an indicator bulb fails. It’s unlikely that with modern reliable technology that the electronics or wiring that control external lights will fail on a vehicle, but it can happen. In fact it happened to me whilst teaching a learner driver.

When we had stopped the car, a courteous driver kindly informed me that we had absolutely no brake lights. This is clearly dangerous, but if you’re in a position where you cannot leave the car, you must give drivers behind a hand signal to inform them that you are slowing or stopping.

Likewise if an indicator bulb fails, especially a rear indicator, a hand signal is essential because if you are making a left or right turn, the driver behind will not know this if you are unable to signal. If the road ahead is clear, this may lead to confusion for the driver if they see only your brake lights. This may provoke them to overtake you which is especially dangerous if you intend on turning right.

Other situations can be for example at a pedestrian crossing. If for instance you are approaching a pedestrian crossing where your side of the road is congested with traffic, but the opposite side is free of traffic, it could be difficult for drivers t see a pedestrian making the cross starting from your side of the road. Especially at a Zebra crossing, the use of the slowing down hand signal can be of benefit to other motorists who may not see a pedestrian or small child.

Driving test and hand signals

Although you may be taught hand signals during driving lessons, it’s highly unlikely you will need to demonstrate them during the actual practical driving test. The driving examiner will not ask you to demonstrate hand signals but in the event of an indicator bulb failure, the use of hand signals may be important.

Although the test is likely to be terminated, showing your drivers hand signal skills may impress the examiner enough to gain a test pass if enough of the test has been completed.


2 thoughts on “Driving Hand Signals Explained”

  1. Peter Longdon

    Sadly, most modern drivers would wonder why you’re gesticulating. Could even end up in a nasty confrontation!

  2. David Jones

    I’m a motorcyclist, and having given a hand signal, a car filled with excitable youngsters past me and all started to wave their arms out of the windows in a derisive manner. Above: Peter Longdon’s words are very true.

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