If we had telepathy and extra-sensory perception, driving might be safer, but there are ways in which you can anticipate what another driver is going to do. You just have to watch out for the signs.
Look for indicators
Indicators are an indication that a vehicle is about to change lanes. Sometimes people leave them on by accident (this is quite easy on a motorbike where there’s no automatic cancellation of the indicator), so you can’t always trust that a driver indicating is intending to perform the manoeuvre. This is particularly common on roundabouts where many people are confused about lane etiquette and when they should be indicating. See a question here regarding how to indicate on roundabouts.
Look for vehicles moving within a lane
Some drivers start moving before they start indicating, which is obviously wrong, but it happens. You can often pick this up and anticipate their move before you see the indicator.
Leave gaps at onramps
If you are passing an onramp then there is a strong likelihood that another vehicle is likely to join the motorway. Be prepared to leave a good sized gap between you and the vehicle in front so that drivers can merge like a zip.
Check your blind spots
Your blind spot is just over your shoulder on both sides of the car. Sometimes are car might be travelling in your blind spot for quite a while without you noticing. Before making any lane change, check over your shoulder.
Don’t drive in others’ blind spots
If the nose of the car next to you ends just behind your B pillar (the door pillar), it will be in your blind spot, unless you have your mirrors set quite wide. Therefore, when you are driving, don’t position yourself in other people’s blind spots. This will reduce the risk of them changing lanes and colliding with you. The best positions to drive in are either directly to the side of a vehicle, or back far enough to leave it a gap to move into your lane.
Look four vehicles ahead
If you are tailgating, you can’t see far enough ahead to anticipate what’s going to happen. Your focus should be three to four cars ahead of you, and for you to keep scanning up the road for potential hazards.
Watch for road signs
Some road signs will give you huge clues to what might happen ahead – a sharp corner will mean that traffic will be braking ahead of you, for example. Check out road and traffic sign theory tests.
This excellent video by Roadcraft Nottingham talks about anticipation. While it’s on a bike, it’s also relevant for cars, buses and lorries.
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.