To ensure you understand signals and give well timed signals for the safety of yourself and other road users
To know and understand how and when to use various signals and to understand signals from others
  • To be able to give clear signals
  • To know how and when to give signals
  • When and how to give arm signals
  • When signals aren’t required
  • To understand signals given by others

If mirrors are the taking of information, then signals are the giving of information. Giving clear and timely signals is an important part of driving. It should form the basis of every action you take when driving and you should always follow – Mirror, Signal and Manoeuvre.

Remember to only use signals that are shown in the Highway Code.

When you are driving signals are usually given by using your cars indicators or brake lights. Signals should be used to:

  • Let other road users know what you are going to do

Always signal in plenty of time (and for long enough) to make sure that others have seen your signal and that they have time to act.

Signalling too soon can be confusing, as what you are planning to do may not be clear to others.

Signalling too late can be dangerous as vehicles behind you may need to brake hard or swerve.

Always make sure you cancel a signal such as the cars direction indicators after use.

Indicator Signals:

Car interior indicator light

Indicator signals should be used to indicate when you are intending to turn or pull over.

Using the left indicator means you are going to turn or stop on the left side of the road.

Avoid using your left indicator to show you are going to stop on the left, if there is also a left hand junction before your stop. Other vehicles may think you are turning left and drive into your path.

Brake Light Signals:

Car brake lights

Always brake in plenty of time. If necessary, lightly press your brake early to signal to drivers behind you.

Brake lights from other vehicles are often a sign of something happening further down the road.

Signalling With The Horn:

using car horn

Your car’s horn should only be used as a warning signal in the following ways:

Use your car’s horn if you think another road user hasn’t, or cannot see you.

On a blind bend, you can use your horn to warn others that you are coming.

Never use your horn:

  • To reprimand other road users
  • To show aggression
  • In a built up area between 11.30pm and 7.00am
  • If you are not moving, unless a moving vehicle is creating a danger
Flashing Your Headlights:

Car flashing headlights

Flashing your cars headlights has the same meaning as using the horn. This can be used in a situation where the horn cannot be heard, or during the times of day the horn shouldn’t be used.

Do not use your headlights too:

  • Reprimand other road users
  • Intimidate another driver
  • Instruct other drivers

Others drivers may flash their headlights for a variety of reasons including:

  • Letting you know to pass them / or for you to go first
  • Thanking you
  • Warning you about something
  • Because your headlights are dazzling them

Always make sure you know the other drivers reason for flashing their headlights, as they might not be doing it for the reason you think.

Hazard Warning Lights:

controls HAZARDS

Your cars hazard warning lights should only be used to warn other road users that you are obstructing traffic. Examples of this are:

  • You have broken down
  • You have to slow down quickly because of a hazard ahead
Reversing Lights:

reversing lights

Your cars reversing lights show others your intention of moving your car backwards. They act as a warning to anyone behind the car.

Arm Signals:

cyclist giving arm signal

Arm signals are rarely used by car drivers nowadays. But you should still be aware of them and what they mean. There might also be times when you might need to use one. They can still be used to reinforce a normal signal.

Approaching a zebra crossing: If you are the front vehicle an arm signal may be useful to tell the traffic behind, you are going to stop and also tell approaching vehicles and crossing pedestrians of your intentions.

Turning Right: An arm signal may be necessary to turn right just after moving out on the road to pass a stopped vehicle.

It’s important to be able to understand arm signals. This is because horse and cycle riders use them.

When you may not need to signal

Signals are used to tell other road users what you are intending to do. Besides signalling to other car, signals can be very useful to pedestrians. When using signals they should help and not harm.

If you have a clear view all around you and there is no one who would benefit then there is no reason to signal.

Signals Given By Police And Others:

policeman signaling

You must obey any signals given by police officers, traffic officers, traffic wardens and signs used at school crossings.

Police officers will usually attract your attention by:

  • Flashing blue lights, headlights and sounding their siren
  • Telling you to pull over by pointing and/or using the left indicator

You must then pull over and stop as soon as it is safe to do so and switch off your engine.

Traffic officers may stop your vehicle on safety grounds e.g. if you have an unsecured load. They will, if possible attract your attention by:

  • Flashing amber lights
  • Telling you to pull over by pointing and/or using the left indicator

You must then pull over and stop as soon as it is safe to do so and switch off your engine. It is an offence to not comply with their directions.

Traffic Lights And Other Signals:

Road marking

You must obey all traffic light signals and traffic signs, including temporary signals and signs. Make sure you know, understand and act on all traffic signals, signs and road markings. Look at your Highway Code for more information.

It is important to always signal when required for your own safety and that of other road users. Signals should be given clearly and in good time. They must help others and not cause any harm.

  • Only recognised signals from the Highway Code should be used
  • You must also be able to recognise and act upon signals given by road signs, road markings, other drivers and the police/other officials
  • Know your arm signals
  • Always use Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre when driving
Further Reading:

The Highway Code Rule(s): 103-112, 116, p102

Driving The Essential Skills: Section(s) 5 and 10

The Story Of The Car Part 8: Signals And Lights


What’s in the driving syllabus?

Click on a topic below to get started.
Please note this syllabus should be used with a professional driving instructor.

Cockpit Drill

Safety Checks

Controls and Instruments
Moving Away and Stopping
Safe Position
Mirrors Vision and Use
Anticipation and Planning
Use of Speed
Other Traffic
Dual Carriageway
Motorway Driving
Country Roads
Pedestrian Crossings
Turning the Vehicle Around
Emergency Stop
Independent Drive
Fuel-Efficient Driving
Passengers and Loads