Signals for driving test

8 minute read Published on Jun 17, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Signals for driving test

To become a fully licenced driver in Canada, you will need to pass a driving test. This will be the case no matter what province or territory you live in. During your exam, there is a chance that you will be tested on hand signals. Not to be confused with the turn signal in your car, “signals” refers to hand signals that make other drivers aware of your movements. Knowing hand signals is a practical skill and good driver habit, as well as a legal requirement in many areas. These may also be useful in the event that you use a bicycle or an electric bicycle. Below, we dive into the three essential hand signals that you should know as a driver in Canada.

Three essential hand signals to know

If you’re a first-time driver or didn’t learn this when you were young, there are three essential hand signals that you should know if you want to become a better driver. They are the left turn hand signal, right turn hand signal, and stop or slow down hand signal. We describe each in detail below:

​Left turn hand signal

To signal a left turn from your car, roll down the driver-side window and extend your left arm straight out from it. Your arm should be parallel to the ground, and your palm should be facing forward. You should take care to give this signal well in advance of the left turn that you intend to make.

Right turn hand signal

If you wish to make a right-hand turn using the right-hand turn signal, you will start by rolling down your window and extending your left arm out the window. Rather than keeping it straight like you do for a left turn, you bend it upwards at a 90-degree angle for a right turn. Your palm should also be facing forward. This hand signal is meant to mimic the direction of the right turn. Again, you should make this signal well before you intend to make the right turn so other drivers and pedestrians are aware of your intentions.

Stop or slow down hand signal

Last but not least is the stop or slow down hand signal. If you want to indicate to other drivers that you are stopping or slowing down, roll down the window, stick your left arm out of it, and then angle it downwards. To do this, bend your elbow and have your palm facing behind you. This signal can be used when making a routine stop but is especially important in emergencies where you might be forced to stop suddenly. The gesture will signal to other drivers that you intend to stop or slow down, which in turn, will cause them to slow down and be prepared to stop if need be.

Tips for using hand signals on the road

To ensure that you use hand signals appropriately and properly while on the road, follow the tips below:

Make sure your hand is visible

First, in order for your hand signal to be successful, it must be visible to other drivers and pedestrians. To ensure this, extend your arm as far as possible out of your car and even consider wearing reflective gloves or clothing if you have to regularly make hand signals when driving at night, at dawn, or at dusk.

Give the signal as early as possible, especially for turn signals

Similar to if you were using the regular turn signal in your car, make sure to give your hand signal well before you intend to stop or perform a turn. This will give other drivers enough time to react. To avoid any type of collision, it’s also smart to keep a safe distance between cars when driving.

Hand signals are most commonly used in emergencies

Keep in mind that hand signals when driving are intended for supplementary use. In other words, they are not supposed to be used in lieu of your vehicle’s turn signals. Rather, they are designed for emergency situations, such as if your vehicle’s electronic signals are malfunctioning or you’re driving an older vehicle that doesn’t have turn signal lights.

When to use hand signals while driving

As mentioned, hand signals are typically designed for emergency situations. However, there are also a few non-emergency instances where they can be useful. Keep reading to find out when to use hand signals while driving:

​Emergency brake failure

The most common type of emergency that may necessitate hand signals is an emergency brake failure. If your brake lights decide to stop working while you’re on the road, use the stop hand signal to indicate to other drivers that you intend to stop so that the drivers behind you will slow down accordingly.

​Emergency turn signal failure

If your vehicle malfunctions and the turn signal won’t turn on or off, then you will need to use left-hand and right-hand signals if you need to turn.

When driving a classic car or at a classic car rally

Some classic cars may be so old that they do not have modern electronic signals. As such, you may need to use hand signals when driving a classic car or when attending a classic car rally.

When riding a motorcycle

If you’re a driver, then it’s important to know how to share the road with motorcycles. Part of this is understanding hand signals since motorcycle riders commonly use hand signals while driving. Specifically, motorcycles use turn hand signals and stop hand signals.

When driving around cyclists

While you may not need to make a hand signal, it’s important to know what the different hand signals mean when driving around cyclists. Bicycles do not have brake lights, turn lights, or turn signals. Therefore, cyclists rely solely on hand signals. As a result, if you frequently drive next to cyclists on your commute, make sure that you know what each signal means so that you can react appropriately to a cyclist around you.

Why are hand signals important when driving?

Hand signals are not just important; they are essential if you want to ensure that you are safe on the road at all times. The beautiful thing about hand signals is that they are a universal language. No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving, what language you speak, or what country you’re driving in, the signals for left turns, right turns, and stopping are the same. Using this universal form of communication can prevent all kinds of road incidents. Continue reading for a complete list of reasons that road hand signals are so important.

Hand signals facilitate better communication

First, hand signals allow for better communication between drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Having a non-verbal form of communication is crucial while driving in a car when you may have trouble hearing another driver or pedestrian talking to you. More specifically, hand signals allow drivers to communicate intentions, such as switching lanes, stopping, slowing down, and turning. Any time you communicate what you intend to do behind the wheel, you reduce the odds of a collision while simultaneously improving the flow of traffic.

Hand signals are a legal requirement

Second, knowing and using hand signals when appropriate is a legal requirement in some parts of the world. For example, some jurisdictions require drivers to employ hand signals if their vehicle turn signal is out of order. For this reason, you may be tested on hand signals during one or more driving exams.

Hand signals are a universal language

Hand signals are one of the few universal languages out there. No matter where you’re driving, the hand signals for stopping, left turns, and right turns are the same. This makes them an especially effective tool for drivers around the world.

​Other driving skills that you may be tested on during your driving test

As mentioned, hand signals are one skill that you might be tested on during your driving test in Canada. While it isn’t a guarantee, it’s important to know and practice them in advance of your test to avoid being docked points on your test in this area.

In addition to hand signals, there are a wide array of other driving skills and behaviours that you might be tested on. These include:

  • Fastening your seatbelt
  • Starting the vehicle
  • Stopping
  • Turning
  • Using your turn signals appropriately
  • Navigating traffic lights
  • Passing vehicles using both your turn signals and a shoulder check
  • Driving in the passing lane
  • Driving through controlled intersections
  • Parallel parking
  • Reversing safely
  • Visual checks of your surroundings
  • Emergency stopping
  • Three point turn
  • Forward parking
  • Reverse parking
  • Obeying posted speed limits
  • Use of the hand brake
  • Overall awareness of the road

To ensure you pass your driving test with flying colours, take care to practice the skills above.

Tips to pass your driving test

Improve your driving skills while setting yourself up for success on your next driving test by following the safe driving tips below:

Practice your hand signals

Our first tip if you want to pass your driving test is to learn how to execute hand signals appropriately. You can start practicing them at home in front of the mirror. Once you are comfortable with this, try employing them in real-life situations.

Gain experience driving in different conditions

You never know what the weather or road conditions are going to be like on the day of your driving test. Plus, if you want to become a safe and confident driver, you will need to know how to drive in all kinds of conditions. For this reason, we recommend going on practice drives in a wide variety of weather conditions, traffic conditions, and roads. In advance of your test, go for a drive in the rain, at night, on the highway, during rush hour, and on small, residential roads. Learning how to navigate these different circumstances will help you prepare for your test.

Follow at a safe distance

Maintaining a safe following distance is another tip to help you pass your driving test. Do not follow the car in front of you too closely. Not only could this be misconstrued as aggressive driving behaviour in the form of tailgating, but it can increase your odds of getting into an accident. Leave at least three seconds’ worth of space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.

Check your mirrors

Checking your mirrors and car blind spots is crucial if you want to pass your driving test. Glancing in your rear-view and side-view mirrors regularly and performing a shoulder check any time you intend to change lanes will show the examiner that you are aware of your surroundings. Being aware of other vehicle positions and the general road conditions around you is extremely important if you want to drive defensively and keep yourself safe.

Get in touch with BrokerLink for more information on essential hand signals for driving

Learn more about the importance of hand signals and when to use them by contacting BrokerLink today. One of our insurance advisors can also give you additional tips on ways to avoid an accident, such as hitting an animal on the highway.

Plus, we can help you find a quality car insurance policy, whether you're looking for young drivers insurance or your first car insurance policy. A few types of car insurance that a BrokerLink insurance broker can help you find include:

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