The Body Language of Cars

Leslie's Avatarby Leslie Jones

I’m a writer. I see everyday scenes around me and make up stories about them. I’m forever fascinated by the narratives we tell, and how it may or may not reflect reality. Sometimes those anecdotes come just from cars and their driving habits.

I don’t know if I have any kind of unique ability, or if all drivers can tell what a car will do based on its body language. I’ve never thought to ask the question. As a long-time driver (I won’t tell you just how long, but it’s decades, not years), my periphery is always focused on my surroundings. Sure, my attention is on the road in front of me, but also to my sides and rear. As a safety mechanism, I pay attention to vehicles’ body language.

Sometimes body language is easy to understand. Brake lights mean a car is slowing. Turn signals are great—but drivers often ignore this most basic communication with other vehicles. Still, small shifts in body movement can signal a lane shift just as clearly, if you’re paying attention. A subtle slide to the right even before a driver checks his blind spot or signals gives you advanced warning that a lane change is imminent. Similarly, a car slowing without braking is also probably about to make a lane change. A car on surface streets slowing every hundred feet or so is most likely lost.

We make judgments about drivers, too, based both on the car’s body language and the type of vehicle driven. The Audi zipping along at 85 in a 55 is a native Arizonan. The Infiniti plodding along in the left lane at 45 in a 55 is a snowbird. A high-pitched roar and a blur streaking past is a thrill-seeking idiot with a death wish on a Ducati. The Mercedes tailgating the car in front of him, then jerking into the HOV lane to pass, is probably a jerk. The Ford F-350 insisting on inserting itself into the 12 feet of space between the Prius and the Civic, despite there being no cars for a quarter of a mile behind them, is probably a jerk. The Lexus roaring past and jumping in front of you, only to brake for a turn, is probably a jerk.

How accurate are my presumptions? Maybe I’m right; maybe the Mercedes is just an a-hole. But maybe he’s racing to get to his wife, who’s just been hospitalized because of an accident. Maybe the Infiniti is sobbing too hard to see out the windshield because she’s just been fired from her job.

Am I right? I’ll never know. Regardless, the nuggets steer their way into my stories, and imagining them is truckloads of fun.

Leslie Jones Headshot Award-winning and RITA® nominated author Leslie Jones writes military romantic suspense because she loves sexy alpha heroes and strong heroines. She is grateful to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their dedication and sacrifice. She draws on her 11 years as an Army intelligence officer as she writes. Her books can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and HarperCollins Publishers.

She’s lived in Alaska, Korea, Belgium, Germany, and other exotic locations (including New Jersey). She now resides permanently in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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About Leslie Jones

Award-winning and RITA®-nominated author of military suspense, Leslie Jones has been an IT geek, a graphics designer, and an Army intelligence officer. She’s lived in Alaska, Korea, Belgium, Germany, and other exotic locations (including New Jersey). She is a wife, mother, and full-time writer, and currently lives in Peoria, Arizona. Represented by Sarah E. Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

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