Seven Sensible Signals

One ongoing objective of the National Motorist Association is the improvement of our driving environment. This includes the enhancement of motorist-to-motorist communication.

In the late 1980's we researched and developed a series of seven messages and simple signals to convey these messages. The following graphical representations and narratives describe each of these messages and its accompanying signal. It is our hope and intention that they become known and used by all motorist.


In a brief lapse of attention or judgment you unintentionally inconvenience, irritate, or endanger another motorist. You feel embarrassed and the other driver is angry. Neither state of mind produces safe, courteous driving

The "Apology" signal can diffuse the destructive anger and frustration that follow these unfortunate encounters. To signal an apology, hold two fingers in a "V" position, palm out.

Slow Down, Danger Ahead

You see an obstacle in the road and would like to alert other motorists to the potential danger. The "Slow Down" signal will warn others of an accident, obstacle, or any dangerous condition.

To alert traffic approaching from the opposite direction, turn your headlights off and on. To alert traffic approaching from the rear, activate your brake lights or extend your left arm and motion downward.

If you see the "Slow Down" signal from another motorist, heed the warning.

Lane Courtesy (Please Yield Left Lane)

While traveling on a multilane highway you wish to pass another vehicle that is in the left "passing" lane. The "Lane Courtesy" signal will alert the other motorist of your intention.

Signal your intention by turning the left directional light on and off, 4 to 6 blinks at a time. If the slower vehicle does not respond to the left turn signal, briefly flash your headlights to gain the attention of the other driver.

If you see the "Lane Courtesy" signal from the motorist behind you, check the adjacent right lane, pull over when it is safe to do so, and let the faster vehicle pass.

Pull Over For Problem

You come across a vehicle about to have a flat, or lose luggage from an outside rack or litter the highway with skis, bicycles or furniture. The "Pull Over For Problem" signal helps you alert the other driver.

To alert another motorist of a problem with his or her vehicle, first point in the direction of the problem (up for loose roof rack, back for trailer problem, etc.), then signal "thumbs down."

If you receive this signal from another motorist, pull over and check your vehicle.

Light Problem (Check Your Lights)

The directional lights on another vehicle have been unknowingly left on. You see a vehicle with a burned out headlight or taillight. You would like to alert the other driver of the problem.

To signal a motorist to "check your lights." open and close your hand touching the thumb and finger tips together.

Need Assistance

You are pulled over to the side of the road and need help. Most passersby are unsure what help, if any, is needed. You need to signal for help without conveying panic.

To signal for assistance, make the sign of a "T" by crossing one hand above the other.

If you see the "Need Assistance" signal, you must make a decision whether you will stop, phone for help, or ignore the appeal.

I Understand (Thank You, I Understand)

To acknowledge another motorist's apology light problem or problem pull-over signal, for example, or to thank another driver for courtesy, use the well-understood "Thumbs up" or "OK."

Copyright 1994 by National Motorists Association (6678 Pertzborn Road, Dane, Wisconsin 53529; 608/849-6000; Typed with permission by Kevin Atkinson (

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