Message Monday - Turn signals, the original instant message

7-11 message mondayAs far back as 1907, people saw a need for drivers to communicate their intentions on the roadway. In that year Percy Douglas-Hamilton applied for a patent for a device “indicating the intended movements of vehicles.” On the original patent request, the lights were shaped like hands. Previous to the lighted version, drivers used hands signals to indicate intentions, so it made sense that the lights correspond to the hand signals. None of the auto makers at the time seemed interested in the safety innovation.

Time marched on and a variety of other turn signal ideas followed. In the U.S., Buick was the first to install turn signals as a factory-installed safety feature in 1938-39. After WWII, these signals became more common on most models of American made vehicles. It wasn’t until the 1968 model year that federal standards mandated amber lens front turn signals and either amber or red rear turn signals.

While these are some fun facts, does signaling intention really make you safer? You might think your intentions to change lanes is obvious to all around you, but your turn signal is often the only clue other drivers have to judge where you’re planning to go.

The fatality count of 188 is an increase of 7 from last Monday. To see statistics published daily by the Office of Driver Services, go to

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