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Is there a specific term to refer to what you need to do in the following situation?

You are driving on a road and an oncoming vehicle is moving towards you in the same lane you are using. If neither changes course, you will collide. You need to change lanes/avoid the oncoming vehicle to avoid the crash.

What is the most idiomatic way to describe what you need to do? "Steer clear"? "Veer clear"? Some other term? thanks!

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

Swerve is the word most would use if the action is immediate and reactive. It means to turn immediately out of the way, and it describes the jerky action you would likely make in that situation.

I swerved to avoid the pedestrian who darted into the road.

If it were a simple changing of lanes, you would just say change lanes.

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many thanks, that is perfect. "Immediate" and "reactive" are exactly the two traits of the action I had in mind. – laramichaels Mar 7 '14 at 16:41
A sudden lane change, but one with more notice than would require a swerve, may constitute a veer, and a more intentional one a cut. – choster Mar 7 '14 at 16:43
@choster, would "veer" allow me to preserve an explicit reference to the avoidance of the other vehicle? I have been googling "veer clear of * car" | "veer clear of * vehicle" | "veer clear of * truck" without any convincing results. – laramichaels Mar 7 '14 at 16:46
@laramichaels Veer is the action of moving slightly in one direction or the other. You wouldn't veer clear. You would steer clear. But, steer clear implies that you are avoiding something with advanced notice. – David M Mar 7 '14 at 16:48
@laramichaels Veer can carry the connotation that the driver is not in control— the car veered to the right because of faulty alignment or veered off the road when the brakes failed— but the driver can also veer left to avoid the wreck ahead, i.e. to steer clear of it. Veer clear is not a common colocation. – choster Mar 7 '14 at 16:48

To provide an alternative, the first word that pops to mind for me is "dodge".

I dodged the oncoming car just in time!

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Evade comes to mind. But this is just another way of saying avoid.

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It's still a good synonym. +1. – David M Mar 7 '14 at 17:25

If the two cars are playing chicken, the person who swerves first "chickened out"

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"Take evasive action" is the first thing that springs to mind.

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