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How Does Tennessee Punish Drivers Who Do Not Use a Turn Signal?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Campbell County traffic violations defense attorney

According to a recent survey done by, more than 50 percent of the driving community admits to not using a turn signal when changing lanes or making turns. Some of the reasons motorists gave for this were because they did not think they had enough time or simply because they did not want to use their signals. This is dangerous driving behavior, which can lead to collisions that result in serious injuries or even wrongful death. Drivers can also be pulled over and issued a traffic citation if a police officer sees the motorist failing to signal. The act can also be considered reckless driving -- which is a Class B misdemeanor in Tennessee -- because not signaling in which direction you are driving puts other motorists on the road in danger.

Why Is it Important to Use a Turn Signal?

Drivers cannot read each other’s minds on the road, and therefore, no one knows when someone is planning to change lanes or make a turn. That is why it is required by Tennessee law to use a signal before making a turn or decreasing speed suddenly. Not only is this a requirement under the traffic laws, but it is a common courtesy on the road. Using a turn signal can prevent:

  • Rear-end collisions: If a driver behind another vehicle does not see a turn signal illuminated, he or she will not be prepared for the car ahead to suddenly slow down or stop. This results in the motorist of the rear car hitting the back end of the car in front of him or her.  

  • Side collisions: If a driver wants to change lanes, he or she should alert nearby drivers that he or she wants to cross over into the next lane. Otherwise, the merging car can sideswipe a vehicle already in that lane. 

  • T-bone collisions: When turning at an intersection, a driver who does not use a turn signal can be struck by oncoming traffic. Known as a “T-bone” crash, this type of accident occurs most often at intersections when one of the drivers fails to yield the right-of-way to the other driver.

  • Hitting a pedestrian: People crossing at a designated crosswalk need to know when a car is planning to turn so they do not step into the road too soon. It is also important for all motorists to remember that pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks, so drivers should yield, whether they are turning or not.

In regard to changing lanes, drivers should remember that just because a turn signal is used, it does not mean they are allowed to change lanes immediately. They must wait until it is safe to do so, and they should not try to squeeze in between two cars already occupying the lane they wish to be in.

Punishments That Can Result From Not Signaling

Not utilizing a turn signal is a lazy habit that can put others at risk. This is why Tennessee regards the action as reckless, and a driver who commits this type of violation may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. Punishments that are issued with this charge could include:

  • Up to six months in jail

  • Fines up to $500

However, if a driver causes an accident because he or she did not signal before turning, he or she may also be required to compensate any victims of the crash. Compensation may include medical bills and repair bills for the car that was hit. If a victim is killed during the incident, the at-fault driver could be charged with vehicular homicide, which is a Class B felony that can carry a prison term of 8 to 30 years.

Contact a Jacksboro, TN Criminal Defense Lawyer

It may seem like a minor detail, but failing to use your turn signal while driving can have significant consequences. It can lead to serious car accidents, and you may be issued a traffic ticket and even spend time in jail, depending on the circumstances. The skilled legal team at the Law Offices of William F. Evans can help you reclaim your driving privileges and clear your record. To schedule a free consultation with our diligent Campbell County traffic ticket attorneys, call our office today at 423-449-7980.




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