Use of Signals

As a driver we tend to notice an assortment of signals from road users that may not be correct, generally because drivers are unaware of what they should be doing. 

The really simple rule is - Signal to warn others of your intentions and to help other road users. 

Road users are variable and include the obvious drivers of motor vehicles to mobility vehicles and cyclists through to pedestrians. 

Give only those signals shown in the Highway Code(Rule 103/Signals)

Usual ways to signal

Although most motorists consider the normal way to signal our intentions is through direction indicators although not always correctly there are many ways to signal our intentions that most may not realise are also practical or correct.  These include;

Direction Indicators
Brake lights
Flashing headlights
Reverse lights
Hazard warning lights


Help other road users to understand your intentions by signalling in good time so that others have enough time to act upon your signal and

Position yourself correctly and in good time for the manoeuvre you intend to make. 

Confusing signals

Make sure your signals will not confuse others for instance, if you intend to pass a stationary vehicle when parked near a junction.  The correct position will help in not misleading other road users. 

Other road user signals

Watch out for signals given by other road users as they not mean what they are intended.  Be aware that an indicator on another vehicle may not have been cancelled so only proceed when you are satisfied when it is safe. 
This would generally mean when waiting for the vehicle to have passed or turned in to the road. 

Arm signals

It may sometimes be necessary to reinforce direction indicator signals and stop lights.  We can do this by a relevant hand or arm signal.  The main arm signals are shown below and can be seen in the Highway Code. 

Like any signal we use, they must be in good time and shown correctly.  Here you'll need to make sure that when you use arm signals, the arm is fully extended as this will be more visible to other road users. 

Although, arm signals are not normally used by motorists, consider that horse riders and cyclists will be fully aware of their meaning and may indeed use them more regularly. 

Flashing headlights

The use of flashing headlights is a form of signal that is regularly used by motorists but typically for reasons that are not shown in the Highway Code. 

It is therefore essential to note that 'flashing headlights' are for warning of your presence and NOT to indicate that it is safe to proceed or turn. 

If someone flashes their headlights at you, make sure you understand what they mean and it's you they are intended for. 

Never assume but that's not to say that we should ignore the signal but always take the appropriate observation and action before you decide to do anything. 

When driving on a fast moving road such as a dual carriageway or motorway it can be difficult to hear the sound of a horn so if you think a warning is necessary, consider flashing your headlights. 

An example of the correct use is when you are travelling behind someone that is maintaining a lane for a considerable time and is perhaps un aware of your presence. 

Warning signals

The use of the horn is an excellent method to warn other road users of your presence who may not be able to see you or has not looked.  There are several situations when you'll benefit from using the horn for example when approaching a blind bend or when someone is driving/reversing out into your path. 

However, never use the headlights or horn as a form of rebuke or to attract someone's attention. 

We also need to note that the use of the horn has two noteworthy legal obligations.  These include, Unless a moving vehicle poses danger, it is illegal to use the horn when stationary or between the hours of 11.30 pm through to 7am in a built up area.