Hand Signal Light for Motorists (Sep, 1931)

Hand Signal Light for Motorists

EVERY year a large number of auto accidents occur because drivers fail to notice signals. A simple device, the hand signal light, recently invented, helps to make driving safer, especially at night.

If the driver ahead wishes to make a left-hand turn, the driver behind will be able to see the signal. As soon as the hand is extended, lights from the car in the rear strike the red glass, which makes the signal clearly visible. The signal light is worn like a wrist watch, as shown at right.

  1. slim says: July 30, 20108:55 am

    This makes me feel old. I can remember actually using hand signals. Now a days, hand signals consist mostly of one finger salutes.

  2. rick s. says: July 30, 201011:19 am

    Some time in the 40s I watched one of my uncles install a set of turn signals on his car. It came as a kit and with a great deal of fiddling around with stringing the wires and mounting lights to both ends of the shelf by the rear window he got them up and running. I don’t recall that they had turn signal lights attached to the front or not. I also remember seeing some that were clamped onto the back bumpers of some cars so those kits came in various forms. For some years after the first cars were actually sold with them built in (as an extra option), drivers were still required to use hand signals in my state along with their new turn signals.

    And yes, Slim, I did use hand signals when I first started driving also. It was a real pain during the winter or in rainy weather to crank down that window and stick your arm out when you made a turn. And believe me, if you didn’t use the hand signals in my state, with or without turn signals, you did get stopped and ticketed.


  3. StanFlouride says: July 30, 201011:37 am

    As one of the few bicyclists who uses hand signals I have thought more than once about inventing a glove-mounted light. Even though I ride in the city, my gloves are dark and it would help make them easier to see.

  4. George says: July 30, 20101:44 pm

    By 1963 when I got my driver’s license (MA), they apparently were mandatory equipment on new cars, however we had to use hand signals during our road test to prove we were ready in case civilization regressed a couple decades.

    They didn’t have learners’ permits until the next year and no special motorcycle exam until around 1967. If you had been practicing on back streets in your friend’s car, you could walk in on your 16th birthday and drive out with a license. That is if you remembered to signal, stop completely at stop signs, do a hill start (easy, the inspector didn’t know about the Studebaker Hill-Holder on my borrowed car), make a 3 point turn, and get back with the inspector in one piece.

  5. Toronto says: July 30, 20106:48 pm

    Stan – my bike gloves have a reflective strip, and my winter bike gloves are VERY reflective. Lights would just complicate things, I figure.

    BTW, when my father bought his ’56 VW (in Luxembourg, I believe, though he lived in France) he had to specify the electric turn signals as an option (as well as the gas gauge and the French-style parking lights.) I think he got electric wipers installed afterwards – the factory ones were driven by the air pressure in the spare tire.)

  6. sporkinum says: July 30, 20107:53 pm

    Obviously, turn signals are an extra cost option the majority of drivers choose not to purchase.

  7. Don says: July 31, 20106:26 am

    If I’m reading this article right, the thing being described is actually just a reflector. Calling it a “light” seems misleading . . . .

  8. Repack Rider says: July 31, 201010:01 am

    I remember seeing old trucks with a reflectorized flat bar outside the driver’s side of the cab. A lever inside the cab deployed it in one of two positions like an extended arm to indicate turns without opening the window.

  9. George says: July 31, 20102:45 pm

    @toronto, I’m only sure about the US models. They had pop-out type signals on the door post until ’54 then went to more traditional flashing lights on the 4 corners.

    Wipers were electric, though in 1961 they introduced a windshield washer. It was powered by air pressure in the washer tank, it had a standard air valve to pressurize it when you filled your tires. At some point between then and 1970, they switched to powering the washer from the spare tire, supposedly with some sort of limiter to keep you from washing it flat.

    They had no gas gauge until ’62, before that there was a reserve lever under the dash, you drove until it quit, turned the lever, got gas, and hopefully remembered to flip the lever back.

  10. George says: July 31, 20104:09 pm

    Sorry if I confused some. My information about turn signals and gas gauges referred to VW Beetles sold in the US, not all American cars.

  11. Firebrand38 says: July 31, 20105:05 pm

    George: No, I just should have read what toronto had written that you were responding to. Interesting stuff, I had no idea about the venerable Bug of my childhood.

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