Does anyone still use hand signals when driving? Are/Were they the same in all countries?

The younger people here might not know about this, but long ago there was a universally understood–well, at least in America AFAIK–system of turn signals that you made by hand, through your open window. To signal a left you stuck your hand straight out to the side, usually with the palm facing downward. To indicate a right you stuck your hand out as before, but bent at the elbow with your forearm held upright. And those were the only two I ever learned. They were still teaching this stuff when I learned to drive in 1974. IIRC you were required to use signal lights at night, or in conditions of poor visibility, which, in those days, were usually the same time you’d rather have the window closed anyhow. I think they may have been phasing this out when I took my first official driving test in '74, because the tester didn’t ask me to demonstrate the signals.
This was in California. Did they have something similar in your state or country? Presumably if you drive on the left the signals described would be reversed, or something.

For some reason I just wondered about this today. I hadn’t thought of it in decades, and I can’t remember the last time I saw anyone do this.

They are still in the driver’s manual, at least in our state.

I sometimes see cyclists use them.

I had drivers’ ed in NH 12 years ago, and they were still taught. The two you mentioned along with the elbow bent and forearm pointed toward the ground (opposite of a right turn) means braking. The only time we were told that you’re required to use them is when your turn signals or brake lights fail.

I am a cyclist and I use them while cycling, but not while driving since I have turn indicators on my car as standard equipment. If my turn lights weren’t working, I’d be inclined to use hand signals in heavy traffic if it wasn’t otherwise readily apparent what I was planning to do (i.e., sitting in a left turn lane).

I do wish more drivers (and more cyclists) actually knew what hand signals meant and heeded them. It sure would make cycling in traffic a bit less scary.

My dad still uses them if he’s turning into a non-obvious place, like a driveway that’s near a road junction. His theory is that seeing a hand signal is sufficiently unusual that it will make people stop and watch what he’s doing.

I first learned them in grade school; the intent was clearly to make us safe little bicyclists. Being an obedient (and nerdy) sort of child, I started using them, making me the object of scorn by my peers. I didn’t use them for very long.

Funny you should ask this because I saw somebody signal a left turn with a hand signal today. It’s the first time I’ve seen anyone use a hand signal in years.

There’s also putting your hand out and bending it downward at the elbow to signal you are stopping.

I took driver’s ed in 2001 and we still had to learn the hand signals. Never used them on any of the practical lessions with the instructor, the state written test didn’t mention them, and have never used them in real life.

I see it occasionally and I still use them myself if my window is down.

Mr. Mallard nearly failed his first American driving test because of them. He says British drivers do not use them.

My kid just had to learn it in drivers ed this year.

Just the other day, I saw a driver using them–his tail lights were out. It took me a few seconds to realize what the hell he was doing…

When I moved to the US I found hand signals to be the same. They’re taught in Spain, but rarely used except by bicyclists.

One of the reasons I dislike those guys who drive with the window down and their hand on the car’s roof is that if they’re also hand-speakers (read: from Spain, Italy or parts thereabouts) you can’t tell whether they’re talking to their passengers or signaling.

Well, we don’t typically have any more use for them than American drivers, but they’re still part of the Highway Code, and he’d need to learn them for a British driving test, too.

You can see them in this pdf, which also answers the OP’s second question: no, the UK hand signals are different.

To echo WotNot: I had to learn them when I was doing my driving lessons, but I’ve never seen anybody use them. The only hand signals I’ve seen are fake blowjobs, flicking the Vs, and frantic pointing (which indicates that something’s falling off your trailer).

I used to be an avid bicyclist, readily riding around in busy traffic. I made it a habit to use these signals so as to avoid surprising drivers.

I’ve only used them in my car a couple of times when I had the dashboard apart (stereo installation). The turn signal circuits run through the four-way-hazard-light switch, so when that switch is removed, the turn signals are completely disabled. That’s when I go with hand signals.

There’s a signal popular in parts of Houston, made by bending the arm upright at a 90 degree angle, and extending one finger. :smiley:

Other than that, I am familiar with the signals as something they teach bike riders (I don’t think I have ever seen a bicyclist use these signals). I have also seen a driver use such a signal once. I didn’t know exactly what he was doing until he turned, but as mentioned above, it did make me slow down and go “What the heck…?”

Here in South Africa, driving on the left, it is obviously the right arm that is used, but a left turn in indicated by making counter clockwise circles toward the ground, while stopping is the arm bent upward at the elbow.

Having said that, hand signals (with the exception of Raguleader’s) are hardly ever used - but then, neither are indicators, so one shouldn’t be surprised…

I’ve never understood how you can use them on a bicycle. I could never let go of the handle bars and keep my balance.

And, when I drive, I have my blinkers*. I was taught the arm was only to be used if the blinkers failed.

*turn signal lights

I learned these for my permit test in 2007. I was riding bikes with a friend who is from Germany, and she used the same signals.