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FIRST-PERSON: Common courtesy

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–It took a call to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety to convince me that blinkers (turn indicators for those who prefer a more technical term) are not optional equipment for motor vehicles in the Bayou State.

I had all but assumed that the spiraling cost of passenger cars, trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles had required manufacturers to add blinkers to the unending list of items one must pay extra to possess.

Why did I reach the conclusion that blinkers had become optional equipment? Because I constantly am encountering drivers in late model vehicles that change lanes or make turns without utilizing their turn signals.

Once was the time that I thought the person that had cut me off in traffic without indicating a lane change was suffering from a physical problem. “Perhaps they had a jammed finger or a broken wrist,” I reasoned. “Surely they would not do it on purpose.”

Eventually, though, the notion that people did not -– or could not –- use their blinkers due to physical difficulty was dispelled when a car swerved in front of me. It happened so quickly and without notice that I tapped my horn in response.

The driver that had cut me off thrust his hand out the window and displayed such amazing dexterity with his fingers, and one in particular, that I knew the eschewing of a turn signal was not due to a physical problem.

With the notion of physical disability as the cause for blinker neglect dispelled, I reasoned that automobiles had become so expensive that many people simply could not afford the optional turn indicators.

Since the blinker is such a user friendly accessory, I found it hard to grasp that someone would purposefully and with malice refuse to use it. The turn indicator in my automobile is a scant two inches, maybe less, from the steering wheel. My index finger is able to reach it with ease.

An easy flip up and I indicate to the world that I am going to turn or move to the right. Flick the blinker down and everyone realizes that I am going to the left. No muscle strain. No extra effort -– just a simple flip or an easy flick. What could be easier?

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety dispelled my assumption of blinkers as optional equipment. Not only are automobiles required to have functioning turn indicators, failure to utilize them properly can result in a ticket under the category of unsafe lane change.

The penalty for neglecting to use a blinker is a fine in excess of $100. It is obvious that the Louisiana DPS frowns upon those who view the use of a turn indicator as optional.

Not only is it the law that one utilize a blinker in order to indicate which direction one intends to go, it also is common courtesy.

A civil society can only remain civil if all members are willing to conduct themselves in a courteous manner. Using your blinker to warn others you are going to fly across four lanes of rush hour traffic to exit the off-ramp is the polite thing to do.

If you are going to cut someone off on your daily commute, why not do it in a kinder, gentler way? Use your blinker.

Now that I know blinkers are required on all motor vehicles in the state of Louisiana, I must assume that those who do not use them are so preoccupied with their cell phones, radar detectors, global positioning devices or Dolby stereos that they just forget to utilize them. Surely, no one is so uncivil as to fail to blink on purpose.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each Friday in Baptist Press, is editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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  • Kelly Boggs