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When Do I Need To Use My Car Turn Signal?

  • By: Antonio Garguile, Esq.
  • Published: March 30, 2020

The next time you are driving, count how many times you see, your fellow drivers fail to use their car turn signals while changing lanes. Chances are you will likely come across a driver or two who fail to use their turn signal shortly after you get on the road.

According to a study done by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), almost half of all drivers either don’t use their car turn signal to change lanes or neglect to turn off the turn signal after doing so. The researchers observed the actions of 12,000 drivers on public roads and found that 48% of them failed to use their car turn signals before making a lane change.

This data backs up a survey conducted by Response Insurance, a national car insurer, in which 57% of drivers admitted to not using their car turn signal when changing lanes. According to the study, the worst offenders were among drivers ages 18 to 24, who admitted to not using their turn signal 71% of the time.

These are shocking numbers! Mainly, because drivers who fail to use their car turn signals cause a countless number of accidents on the roadway throughout Washington State.

What is the Current Law For Using Your Car Turn Signal?

Many Washington State drivers wonder when they need to use their car turn signal? Do they need to use it every time, even if they are in a turn only lane?

In December 2019, the Washington State Supreme Court clarified when drivers should be using their car turn signals and unanimously ruled that all drivers must use their signal every time they turn or change lanes on the road. Washington’s Supreme Court justices emphasized that the use of turn signals is essential to public safety and that they not only provide safety for drivers but all other people on the road as well.

This ruling was issued in the case of David Brown. In the spring of 2015, he was arrested for driving under the influence in Kennewick, WA. Washington State Patrol officers pulled Brown over after he briefly turned on his left turn signal while approaching a stoplight in a designated left turn-only lane but turned the signal off and did not reactive it while at the light or while completing the turn. State troopers pulled Brown over for the misuse of his turn signal, but subsequently, he was arrested for DUI.

The case was initially dismissed after a Benton County District Court judge found out that Brown was not legally required to reactivate his turn signal while in the turn-only lane, and that troopers had no reason to stop him initially. After much debate between the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals, the state of Washington appealed to the Supreme Court, later resulting in the new ruling, which was just recently put into effect.

What Does The Law Say?

RCW 46.61.305 says:

When signals required—Improper use prohibited:

  1. No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.
  2. A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.
  3. No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give such signal.
  4. The signals provided for in RCW 46.61.310 subsection (2), shall not be flashed on one side only on a disabled vehicle, flashed as a courtesy or “do pass” signal to operators of other vehicles approaching from the rear, nor be flashed on one side only of a parked vehicle except as may be necessary for compliance with this section.

When Should I Use My Car Turn Signal?

According to current Washington State law, drivers must use their turn signal whenever they are making a lane change, even if they are in turn only lanes.

How Long Do I Need To Signal Before Changing Lanes?

Your turn signal should be activated and stay on at least 100 feet before changing lanes or making a turn in Washington State.

Can You Get A Ticket For Not Using Your Car Turn Signal?

Yes, using your turn signals are required by law, and drivers can be issued a ticket for failing to signal with a fine of $139.

Is A Ticket For Failing To Signal A Moving Violation?

In Washington State, a traffic ticket for failing to signal or improper lane usage is considered a moving violation. If you pay the ticket, it will go on your driving record and impact your insurance rates.

Here at Garguile Law, our team specializes in fighting traffic ticket cases in dozens of courts across the Greater Puget Sound region, and our success rate for keeping traffic infractions from affecting the driver’s insurance rates is unmatched. If you have recently received a traffic ticket for failing to signal or improper lane usage in Pierce, King, Snohomish, Kitsap, Thurston, or Lewis counties, be sure to give our law firm a call today at to get a free case evaluation.

Antonio Garguile, Esq.

About the Author Tony was born and raised in Bremerton, Washington. He is an
energetic attorney and currently focuses his attention on the
representation of clients in both civil and criminal traffic matters.