What to watch for from other drivers on the road

In addition to being alert about how to handle one's own car in emergency situations, it pays to be aware of general traffic conditions and the actions of other drivers. Keep your eyes peeled for drivers who don't blend into the traffic flow. They usually go slowly and delay traffic. Often they aren't aware of other moving vehicles and usually make sudden moves right in front of other cars, frequently without signaling.

They daydream, sight-see, are hunting for stores and addresses, are not watching the road, and could easily lose control of the car's direction.

Further, they use jack-rabbit starts, quick stops, and lane-hopping maneuvers. Their accuracy decreases as the speed increases.

Always be in control of your own vehicle. Body position is important for control. The driver's seat should allow your elbows to be slightly bent, with your hands on the wheel and your legs in a fairly straight position, but still with enough ``bend'' to get maximum leverage in an emergency.

Adjust the side and rearview mirrors for easy eye contact. Use safety belts.

Watch out for drivers who don't control their cars.

They aren't comfortable driving in ordinary traffic. They may drive daily to work or shopping but are never relaxed behind the wheel of an automobile.

Often they creep and jerk along, making wide turns, parking clumsily, and generally confusing anyone around them.

Position your own car correctly. Glancing farther down the road at the center of the driving path will allow you to center your own car, whether you're going straight ahead or rounding a curve. Don't weave from lane to lane to gain a few car lengths in heavy traffic. It doesn't pay.

Watch out for drivers who don't center their cars.

They usually refuse to keep to the right, straddle traffic lanes, and hold up traffic in the passing lane.

They automatically move away from objects on the right: parked cars, intersecting streets, pedestrians, and sometimes the center lane, too. They come out of the right lane and into the left lane when making a turn.

Think at least a few cars ahead to get the entire traffic pattern and keep a safety cushion around you.

``You need to train yourself,'' insists the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ``to look far down the road to note any changes in traffic flow.''

The NHTSA also suggests that drivers avoid being boxed in, keep a good safety stopping margin, and have one side lane open, if possible, to swerve quickly out of danger.

Be aware of drivers who don't have the picture of flowing traffic.

They tailgate and hit the brakes hard at the last moment, demonstrating a lack of knowing what the traffic situation is ahead.

They enter an intersection after the traffic light has turned amber.

They shoot through oncoming cars to cross a through street instead of sizing up the situation and waiting for a safe gap in traffic.

The point is, you need to use common sense to be prepared for the ``what ifs'' of driving. You should be aware of every possibility in the total driving scene and know how to respond in case something goes wrong.

Last of a series of articles on how to handle an emergency situation on the highway.

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