Effingham, Illinois is a town of about 12,000 people a little more than halfway between St. Louis and Terre Haute. It is a great place to pause on the tedious trip across a landscape that showcases Illinois’ incredible black, rich farmland. I go through Effingham four times a year, headed for the race track at Indianapolis and then headed back home.
Once every five years I take the Highway 32/33 exit and head north toward Sullivan for a high school reunion. Sullivan is about half an hour north. Not too far outside of Effingham, Highway 32 makes a sweeping turn to the right, splitting off from 33.
Shortly after the road straightens there is a sign with a message I have not seen on a road sign anywhere else. “Cancel Turn Signal,” it says. Surely there are other places where similar signs are posted but that one on Highway 32 outside of Effingham, Illinois is the only one I’ve seen.
Note to MODOT: Think about signs like that in Missouri.
A little while ago, I left the Capitol to come out to the Missourinet main office and studio about four miles west of the Capitol area. I made the curving turn onto the expressway from Missouri Boulevard and watched my speedometer as I snaked under the double-diamond overpass (that was such an engineering achievement that one section is closed to limit the confusion the thing causes) so that a policeman wouldn’t catch me going 50 in a 40 zone. And I blissfully drove along Highway 50 West, paying attention to traffic, enjoying a nice autumn day, and listening to some classical music by Friedrich Von Wagsson-Petkorski or some other composer who died shortly after the dinosaurs disappeared—-with my right turn signal still on, the timid sound emanating from my dashboard unable to break through my reverie. Three miles later I changed into the left lane to avoid merging traffic from my right and only then did I realize I had been one of those people who drives other motorists nuts by tooling down the highway with my flasher still going.
I am long past being embarrassed by such things or becoming angry when some other numb goof is ahead of me doing the same thing. Such stuff is part of being human.
In this case, at least, I didn’t have my LEFT turn signal on. People who drive for miles in the right lane with their left signal flashing cause incredible angst among their fellow motorists. Is this person going to pull over or not? Are they going to suddenly dart over? Dare I pass, risking a possible collision if they make a move while I’m in their blind spot? Jeez. Well, I’m going to risk it. Vroom. Now that I’m in front of him, how can I signal this goof that his turn signal is on? Maybe if I turn on my emergency flashers he’ll get the hint. Nope. Now he probably wonders what the idiot in front of him is up to. Should I turn on my left turn signal for a couple of flashes and then turn on the right turn signal for a couple of flashes? Now he’ll really think I’m nuts.
Dammit, his turn signal is still flashing and I see it every time I look in my rear view mirror! Why can’t he get the hint? What’s wrong with him? Should I call 911 and say I think someone walked away from the Alzheimer’s ward and they’re in a car behind me? Should I speed up and get far enough ahead that I can stop, jump out, and flag him down to let him know he’s driving everybody else on the road with him crazy?
Hey, MODOT: Think of how much tension could be relieved on the roads; how much more pleasant people would be when they got home or back to the office after following somebody with a forgotten turn signal going, “blink, blink, blink, blink” for miles ahead of them; how much embarrassment would be saved on the part of motorists who realize they’ve driven halfway across the state with a turn signal on.
So, MODOT: “Cancel Turn Signal” signs would strike a blow for traffic safety and domestic tranquility.
Do those signs work? Well, I’ve never shown up for a high school reunion in Sullivan with my turn signal still on.