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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Anticipation is a good thing

No driver has a crystal ball to predict traffic dangers.   But fortunately, we do have the mental capacity to store driving experiences.  Using this ability, we can anticipate what may happen in certain situations based on what we’ve witnessed before.

One might say this helps us to expect the unexpected.  I say that if we effectively anticipate recurring circumstances, we can greatly reduce “the unexpected.”  After all, if we anticipate something, it’s not really unexpected.

Red-light runners

I always anticipate cross-traffic emerging from intersections, even when they should be halted at red lights.  This means that at every intersection, even one with a green light, I briefly lift my foot from the accelerator upon approach, scan for traffic, and prepare for an emergency stop.  I’ve only had to stop a few times within my entire driving history, but I’m thankful I avoided an accident in each case.

Many drivers speed through green-light intersections with eyes straight ahead and blinders affixed.  Simply scanning for traffic before proceeding through any intersection and lifting your lead-foot, preparing to brake, may save your life.  Properly and quickly executed, this procedure does not hold up traffic, and greatly improves safety.

It’s difficult for young drivers to anticipate red-light runners if they have never experienced one.  For them, I hope the first one encountered will only be a close call instead of a crash.  It’s far better to anticipate the eventuality of light runners, and be ready to accommodate them.

Similarly, vehicles may pop out from side-roads with or without stop signs, driveways, or parking lots.  It pays to anticipate such events and be ready for them.


Merging into freeway traffic seems to one of the most complicated acts we perform while driving.  Anticipation by those merging and those being merged upon is required for a successful operation.

It is ultimately the duty of the merger to yield right of way to traffic upon the highway.  That means finding a merge point via anticipation by adjusting vehicle speed to seamlessly blend ahead of or behind oncoming traffic.  It doesn’t work well to wait until you are at the end of the ramp before you take the first look over your shoulder.

Observant drivers on the freeway should move left to allow traffic to merge from the right, even though there is no legal requirement to do so.  At times, however, the presence of left-lane traffic makes it difficult or impossible to move over for merging vehicles.  This is why all parties involved in the vicinity of the merge must properly anticipate.

It’s rare that all lanes are packed enough to require a driver to stop at the end of the ramp.  That scenario is possible, but more likely indicates a lack of proper observance, anticipation and cooperation by involved drivers upon the highway and the merge ramp.

Oblivious pedestrians

Any time we drive down any street, hazards may “jump” into our path.  Traditionally, animals and children at play have been likely perpetrators.  Today, with so many people using cell phones and MP3 players, any pedestrian may be oblivious to traffic.

Too often, drivers regard slower residential driving as a time to fuss with paperwork, make phone calls or engage in other diversions.  This tendency likely contributes to the high number of accidents drivers have near to their homes.  Stay alert in residential and congested areas.

Anticipation is a good thing.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at


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