So, about that left turn signal….


Vehicle with its left directional signal activ...

Image via Wikipedia

 If, while motoring anywhere in the US, you come up behind a vehicle with the left-hand turn signal on, it likely indicates to you that the driver wishes to turn left at the next intersection or change lanes…..or that it’s some old guy or hopped up teenage driver, either of whom might be blissfully unaware that they’re flashing you….and not in the fun way.

Here in Mexico, it’s the same but different.  Here in Mexico, if that left blinker is going, it becomes a bit of a logic puzzle.  You see, there are many more ways in which it may be interpreted and it’s up to you to figure out which is correct.  You have to take into account such things as surrounding terrain, upcoming intersections, age of vehicle and driver, and license plate.  Using all the information, you MAY be able to make a semi-educated guess at what that driver intends to do.

While conventional wisdom would say that any coherent person would have his left-turn signal on because he’s planning on turning left at some point within the foreseeable future, conventional wisdom doesn’t prevail here.  Mexican wisdom prevails, and rightly so.  In which case, you’ve got to consider all the factors I’ve stated above, plus the Mexican mindset.  Not an easy puzzle, my friend.

Here are some of the things that a blinking left-turn signal on a vehicle can mean in my neck of the woods:

(1) I am going to change lanes or turn left at the next street/entrance on the left (quite rare);
(2) It’s okay to pass me now, no on-coming traffic (at least that I can see; take your chances, mi amigo);
(3) I’m slowing WAY down but not to turn, it’s just that only my left blinker works when i turn on my flashers;
(4) I want to turn left but there’s on-coming traffic so I’ll be pulling over to the right shoulder/turnout to wait until it clears and then I’ll make my left turn;
(5) The vehicle(s) in front of me is (are) going REALLY slowly and I’m advising you to slow way down too, but only the left side of my blinkers work (see #3 above);
(6) I’m an old gringo person driving and I forgot to turn off my left blinker miles ago;
(7) I’m double-parked and this is the way I indicate that you should just go around me.

Any of those reasons can be combined with another or several others.  Deciding what a left-turn signal means here in Mexico is a crap shoot (or, to put it more tastefully, a logic puzzle, as I said above).  It’s just one of the many things that make driving here what might be referred to as “adventure driving” (shoutout to Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” for his statement that sleeping on an ironing board put between two chairs constitutes “adventure sleeping”). 

Another thing that gives credence to the term adventure driving is the number of animals that can and do wander onto the road.  And when I say road, I mean it in the very, very broadest sense (country roads, urban streets, highways, and 8-lane toll roads).   And when I say animals, I don’t mean just dogs.  I mean cattle, horses, burros, chickens.  And not just one at a time.  Whole herds or flocks may be crossing a major thoroughfare at any hour of the day or night, with or without any human being in attendance.  

But if the left-turn signal can be interpreted in many ways, blinkers are used frequently and always mean the same thing:  “Slow down, you idiot, before you rearend me!!!!”  I drove in the US for about 45 years and never once during that time did I use my emergency flashers while I was driving.  Here, I use them every time I drive, as do most other vehicle operators.  If, for any reason, a driver here has to substantially slow his vehicle, on come the flashers.  I’ve never seen any statistics, but I’m willing to bet that the number of rear-end collisions in Mexico is much lower than in the US. 

But sometimes it doesn’t matter how many lights on a vehicle are blinking.  Sometimes you never notice them at all because you’ve been distracted.


About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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7 Responses to So, about that left turn signal….

  1. Karen says:

    I see a book title in your words: “Conventional Wisdom Doesn’t Prevail Here” (though I’d say it could be a book that any number of American politicians could write (with massive help from ghost writers).

    We, too, have similar distractions in Montana (a cattle drive down the middle of the road for instance – though, to be honest, I’ve seen that more frequently in Wyoming)! And, I’ve often wondered what that hanging “accoutrement” on many trucks here says about the driver.

  2. Kathi says:

    Every word Barbara wrote is true. I ride in the back of her truck and know what’s what here.
    Yee Haw, love that truckin’ in Mexico.

  3. Jonnie says:

    Of course, you can’t forget the vehicles with NO tail lights! There are more than a few of those around too. I made the mistake one time of turning on my left turn signal to turn into my road and forgot to put my arm out the window too and so someone tried to pass me. So, the rule there is if some one is coming toward you and there is a car behind you, turn on your left blinker and pull of to the right. If there is no one coming toward you but someone behind you you turn on your left blinker as you pull into the oncoming lane with your arm out the window so the guy behind you passes you on the right! Geez!

    • Barbara says:

      jojo, you’re absolutely right! the left turn signal coupled with the arm out is a whole ‘nother ballgame. of course, since the lanes are so narrow here, you need to be careful that you don’t get your arm clipped off at the elbow.

  4. Joe says:

    Don’t forget to honk your horn……lol

  5. Wyotoad says:

    I’ve seen several of those trucks with the rubber scrotums here in AZ. I wonder about the mental condition of men that take the time to buy the dongles and install them. What kind of wormy meat fills their skulls?

    • Barbara says:

      orr, not only the guys who put them on the truck but the guys who thought them up….and it was obviously guys. same guys that holler “hey, y’all, watch this!” before doing something dumb and maybe deadly. what a drunken roundup that must have been when the guys thought this up. “hey, you guys know what would look good on a truck? a pair of balls!” why do i think that sheriff joe was involved in this????????

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