Susan Lister, of Los Gatos, has a pointed message for Bay Area drivers who catch a glimpse of her gray Prius -- a colorful Roadshow bumper sticker that says:
"I don't read minds / SO SIGNAL, DAMMIT!"
Lister is one of nearly 300 Bay Area motorists who have plastered stickers on their vehicles as part of a campaign to get drivers to change their sloppy driving habits and use their turn signals.
In addition to the "dammit" sticker, another one reads: "Be a thinker / USE YOUR BLINKER!"
Readers hatched the bumper sticker idea this year and suggested I get their recommendations. Dozens of slogans rolled in. These were the two most popular.
"Ever since I applied the bumper sticker, I have noticed an increase in the use of turn signals," Lister says. "Coincidence? Let's keep up the trend."
Not signaling is a leading pet peeve of many motorists in numerous driving surveys, and safety experts say it's a serious issue.
A study in the spring by the Society of Automotive Engineers found that "turn-signal neglect is a problem that causes more crashes than distracted driving." Proper use of signals, it concluded, could prevent millions of crashes nationwide.
The study found that drivers fail to signal a staggering 48 percent of the time, resulting in 2 million collisions a year -- more than twice the 950,000 crashes linked to distracted driving such as texting or yakking on a cellphone.
Young and old, we are fed up with those who don't signal.
"Please, please send me the 'dammit' sticker," said 80-year-old Annette Raynes, of San Jose. "It might get the message across to drivers who consider blinking unnecessary or unimportant. It's worth a curse word."
"I hope these no-signal folks can read," huffed Susan Farley, of Santa Clara.
"Please send me two of the 'dammit' stickers," said Seena Hawley, of Berkeley, who gave one to her friend Tom for his birthday.
Initially, I fretted that the bumper stickers would incite road rage. But when a host of trusted traffic cops and hundreds of readers weighed in positively, I knew it was time for the campaign to begin. Forget about offending a discourteous driver who can't bother to activate his blinker.
They should be apologizing to us. Profusely.
"The bumper stickers will be snapped up quickly, I'll bet," said retired San Jose motorcycle Officer Bruce Raye. "Stronger the language, the better! How about, 'Nice signal, jerk!' "
Alameda County Deputy Tom Rodrigues asked why he thought so many drivers don't use blinkers, said: "Laziness, pure and simple. They just don't care. This sounds hostile but this is the way it is."
Added San Jose Lt. Mike Kihmm: "I don't see anything wrong with the stickers. They are a message about safe driving and a moving community message sign promoting safe driving for all. Not a political message or an opinion, like some bumper stickers are."
Drivers who don't signal pose a real danger to motorcyclists, some of whom say it could be one reason why motorcycle deaths jumped 19 percent in 2011 compared with 2010.
"As a 40-plus-year motorcycle rider, I find the most dangerous aspect of the road is drivers changing lanes without using signals," said Allan McCarthy, of Los Altos. "In fact, the few drivers that do signal tend to do so while changing lanes, not in advance of the lane change -- as though if they signal in advance someone will quickly cut them off.
"When did the DMV rule of using turn signals get dropped from driver education and general practice?"
There may be a better solution than wishful thinking in the works. The Society of Automotive Engineers is pushing what it calls the "smart turn signal" -- which would work much like a seat belt reminder. It would be able to sense when drivers routinely ignore their turn signals and start to flash a reminder.
With gridlock mounting as the Bay Area economy improves, traffic engineers say we could greatly improve conditions on our roads by simply being more courteous. That means driving slower, obeying red lights, not changing lanes frequently, and when we do -- turning on those doggone blinkers.
"Thank you so much for doing the bumper stickers; they look great," said Jill Sebben, of San Mateo. "Hopefully more people will use their blinkers when they see your stickers on everyone's cars."
We can only hope.
Contact Gary Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5335.
To receive a bumper sticker, send a self-addressed stamp envelope to: Mr. Roadshow, San Mercury News, 750 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, CA. 95190. List which of the two stickers you prefer.