Hand Signals Guide

Whether you're making a lane change or turn, state laws require you to signal your intentions to other drivers on the road.

Use this guide to learn more about using hand signals when turn signals are not an option.

Hand Signals & Definitions

Signaling helps make other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians aware of your intentions on the road. This improves safety and can help to avoid an accident.

Below are the basic hand signals you may need to use if you are a cyclist or a motorist whose turn signals aren't working properly.

Left Turn

When making a left-hand turn or changing lanes from right to left, you'll need to make a left-hand turn signal by:

  • Extending your left arm sideways from the driver's window, keeping your arm straight and your fingers extended.
  • Try to make your arm as visible as possible.

Right Turn

When turning right or changing lanes from left to right, make a right-hand turn signal by:

  • Extending your left arm out of the driver's side window.
  • Bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle so that the hand is pointing up and your palm is facing forward.
  • Try to make your arm as visible as possible to those around you.

Stopping or Slowing

When you intend to stop or slow down, signal your intentions when pressing on the brake by:

  • Extending your left arm out of the window.
  • Bend your elbow and point the hand down toward the road with your fingers extended.
  • Your palm should face the drivers behind you.

When to Use Hand Signals

While it might not seem like hand signals are needed most of the time, there are instances when they are both necessary and helpful in order to abide by state traffic laws.

These include:

  • When a tail or brake light isn't working.
  • When the morning and evening sunlight makes it hard to see signal lights from other vehicles.
  • Operating a bicycle or other vehicle that doesn't have turn signals.
  • Motorcyclists who have tail or brake lights that may not be visible to all other vehicles on the road.

Tips for Using Hand Signals

Here are a few tips you'll want to keep in mind when using hand signals:

  • States have different guidelines for when you should signal a turn. Make sure to read up on your state's specific requirements.
    • FOR EXAMPLE: In California, you're required to begin signaling at least 100 feet from an upcoming turn.
  • Continue signaling until the turn or lane change is complete.
  • Remember to use signals when pulling to or away from a curb.
  • Signal even when you don't see other vehicles around you.
  • Signal before you begin to brake.
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