Friday, January 30, 2009

Driving and Usability (Loosely)

After a frustrating drive home yesterday, I started thinking about turn signals, why they're important, and why people use (or don't use) them. So, I did a highly informal survey with a very small pool (okay, 5 people that I know personally). Here are the results:

Of the people surveyed:
  • 20% claim to use turn signals all the time (Group A)
  • 80% admit to not using them all the time (Group B)
  • 0% claim to never use them (Group C)
When asked why they don't use turn signals all the time, those in Group B responded that they usually just forget.

Now, I believe there are people in Group C, though I haven't met any (self-admitted, that is). I also believe the pool I found is somewhat skewed, because these are all people close to me, and I usually hang out with considerate people who drive reasonable vehicles and understand that the road and everything on it does not belong to them.

I also searched to see what had been written already about this topic. I should have known that Don Norman had an article about signals. His take is more on how we might get our machines to be as expressive as human faces, but I was intrigued by the bits about the importance of signals in communication and understanding.

When I cycled to work the last two summers, I noticed that the other cyclists smile, wave and greet each other while commuting. I had people ask if I need help when I was fixing a chain. I remember growing up in small-ish towns where people would drive down the main streets and wave to each other.

This doesn't happen in our cars any more. Our obscenely big-assed cars have so many amenities that we have grown accustomed to treating them as isolated bubbles of human existence--an extension of our private living space.

But they're not. We are interacting with the world when we are piloting a moving vehicle among moving vehicles with other pilots.

So, dude: use your turn signal.

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts! My observations: I live in a somewhat small town of about 20,000 people. If you meet someone on a smaller country road, most all still wave. Very few waves on larger roads in town, but they do happen every once in awhile. Outside of town, just forget it. I wonder if this all means anything?