18 October 2007

Cars have body language

Freeway driving is a bit like playing asteroids, especially when there are four or more lanes to each side. Fortunately, despite the fact that it sometimes seems otherwise, cars only go in a few specific directions rather than every which way.

Unfortunately, unlike asteroids that only move based on inertia, they can slow down, speed up, and change direction, sometimes for no apparent reason.

Fortunately, this doesn't generally happen without warning. Even when they aren't using turn signals, cars have body language. By watching how they slow down, speed up, tailgate, drift, or "lean" to one side of the lane or the other, it's possible to know what they want to do (or are about to do). And by watching all of the other cars around them, it's also possible to know why.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to read car body language. Most people probably aren't even aware of it - it's not exactly required knowledge for obtaining a basic drivers license. Even people who do know aren't necessarily always paying attention at all times. It's therefore good to assume that everyone else on the road is oblivious until they prove otherwise (or are a professional trucker).


Jim Wright said...

Man, I thought I was the only one who could read the body language of cars.

I think the most common message I read is: "Help! There's a stupid person inside me, talking on a cell phone, and it's driving me (heh) crazy!"

MWT said...

Yeah, sadly I was probably responsible for a few of those messages on my drive up here. It turns out that although the new radio attachment to my iPod works as advertised, every damn frequency is taken, and within large cities I'm lucky to go 15 minutes without having to change to a different one. I do wait until I'm on a straight stretch of road with nothing much going on, but uh... yeah, "crazy" is probably exactly what I looked like. Note for anyone else planning to buy a radio transmitter for an MP3 player to play on roadtrips: pick one that has really huge, easy-to-push backlit buttons.

Jim Wright said...

My wife has a xmitter for her iPod, which seems to work pretty good. I'm thinking about getting one for my ZEN, I'll bear your advice in mind.

Of course, here where I live, radio interference isn't much of a problem.

Anne C. said...

I, too, thought I was the only one who reads the body language of cars. It keeps me entertained (and alive) while I'm driving. It's also one of the reasons I rarely talk on the phone while driving -- I know I'm not reading the tea leaves, so have less time to react.
The body language thing has also been a good skill to have while driving a motorcycle, when it's even more crucial to read other drivers' minds.

Jim - heh on the pun, BTW - if you get a xmitter for your Zen, blog about it, if you please. I have a Sansa (which, I believe, is put out by the same people) and I'm unsure of what sort of transmitter works with our system. Most everything is geared for the iPod. (Being a non-conformist, I was thrilled when someone gave me a non-iPod mp3 player.) Knowing how your experience goes would be very helpful. :)