Needed: An international hand signal for "There's a problem with your car"

You’re driving down the road. You see another car on the road with you that has a problem. The lights are off and it’s dusk. There is something loose that may break off. There’s something left on the roof or the trunk is not closed — any number of things. How do you tell the driver that they need to stop and check? I’ve tried sometimes and they mostly think you are some sort of crazy, driving to close to them, waving at them, honking or shouting. Perhaps after a few people do it they figure it out.

We have a few signals. Oncoming cars flash lights on and off to warn you your lights are off. (Sometimes they are also warning of a speed trap.) High beams means, “I want to pass and you’re impeding the lane” and while many think that’s rude it’s better than tailgating.

We need a signal for “There is a problem with your car, you should check it out.” This signal should be taught in driving schools, and even be on the driving test. A publicity campaign should educate existing drivers.

One proposal that might make sense is the SCUBA signal for “I have a problem.” This is holding your hand flat, palm down, and wiggling it side to side (ie. rotating your wrist.) Then you point to the source of the problem, like your regulator or whatever. (There are specific SCUBA signals for well known problems, like being low on air, nitrogen narcosis etc.)

For this signal you would waggle the hand and then point at the place on the other person’s car. To those untrained, the signal often mean’s “dicey” or uncertain. Shaking of the head could also strengthen the signal.

Anybody have a better signal to propose?

international sign: something is wrong with your car

I think it's a great idea. It's one thing to slow and roll down the window on a city street, but most of the time that doesn't work.

Int'l Hand Signal

I remember one time noticing someone's rear wheel wobbling and not being able to get their attention.

I think you need something bolder like roll down your window and windmill your arm, something they might even see in their rear view mirror if you honk or flash your lights to get their attention. But it's a reasonably dramatic gesture as primates go, I'm sure if someone did that to me out of the blue I'd wonder what the problem was and I can't think of any other interpretation other than maybe you're trying to say "go faster!" (ROLL IT!)

More dramatic

Might be better, though of course you have to be able to signal to the right or left, so it can’t require an arm out the window, though you could probably do this and be seen through the window.

If you're not alone in the car...

...I have a cheap (kiddie) dry-erase board just for that purpose. I've also thought of printing a couple of signs on cardstock or something, but I don't drive often enough to bother.

I use a rapid jabbing motion

I use a rapid jabbing motion pointing at the part of the car with a problem.

In most countries, you can use Peter Pointer, but that can be rude, so the thumb or entire hand would have to be substituted.

It seems to work as the driver always seems to pull over within a few moments of my signalling.

I can recall it working in France and Montenegro recently, so it seems to span language and cultural gaps, unlike head nodding, which means no in Bulgaria and Albania.

Gesturing can be tricky when travelling...



The SCUBA signal works.

That is exactly what we use when spotting something wrong... no matter where or what. It has worked... it at least gets the other person wondering.

We also use the SCUBA OK (arms raised overhead in a big circle) to indicate OK at a long distance. Arm outstretched with a flat hand (wagging) to indicate NOT OK and clenched fist for DANGER (pointing in the direction of danger).

What we need is to make these signals common beyond the SCUBA community.

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