The lost art of indicating

Car indicator light
Car indicator light

Using your vehicle’s indicators properly is more than just a basic courtesy; it’s the law.

Indicating is the act of using your vehicle’s indicator lights – also known as ‘turn signals’ – to let other road users know you intend to change direction, and not using them correctly can result in fines and demerit points.

Failing to indicate properly reduces pedestrians’ and other drivers’ chance to plan for your change in direction, potentially leading to dangerous situations, collisions and road rage.

What are the road rules for indicating?

The NSW Government Road Rules 2014 document states that indicators must be used when a driver changes direction to the left or right. A change of direction includes the following:


Changing marked lanes;


Entering a marked lane, or a line of traffic;

Moving to the right or left from a stationary position;

Turning into a marked lane, or a line of traffic, from a median strip parking area;

Making a U-turn; and

At a T-intersection where the continuing road curves – leaving the continuing road to proceed straight ahead onto the terminating road.

Regardless of a direction change to the left or right, drivers must stop giving the change of direction signal as soon as the maneuver has been completed.

For more information on indicator road rules, click here.

How do I use my indicators at roundabouts?

Your indicator signal(s) must be used at roundabouts, regardless of the change of direction.

Left indicators must be used:

When approaching a roundabout with the intention to take an exit to your left – with the indicator remaining activated until the vehicle has exited the roundabout; and

When exiting a roundabout, even if the vehicle has gone straight or turned right.

Right indicator lights must be used when:

Approaching a roundabout with the intent to take an exit to the right.

What this means is, regardless of which direction you intend to go, it is illegal not to use your indicators at a roundabout.

What are the penalties for failing to indicate in NSW?

Improper use of indicator signals attracts a fine of $194 and two demerit points in NSW.

Bear in mind, the penalty for not switching off your indicator is the same as failing to use it at all.

For more information on penalties related to indicators, click here.

How long do I need to keep my indicators on for?

The law states a stationary vehicle’s indicator signal must be activated for at least five seconds before re-entering the flow of traffic ie. leaving a kerb. Worth noting is mirrors and blind-spots must also be checked before this maneuver is undertaken.

However, the law is vaguer regarding how long an indicator must be used before a change of direction at speed. The NSW Government states drivers must “give the change of direction signal for long enough to give sufficient warning to other drivers and pedestrians”.

This is where a courteous and thoughtful approach to how long you think an indicator should remain on for other road users to make necessary adjustments could avoid an accident or angering others.

Does my trailer need indicators?

NSW light vehicle laws – which apply to towing vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), and trailers with an Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM), of less than 4.5 tonnes  requires trailers built after 1973 to have a pair of direction indicator lights “fitted on, or towards, its rear that face backwards".

If direction indicators are fixed to the side of a trailer, they must flash at the same time and rate as the towing vehicle’s.

For more information on trailer indicators, click here.

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