Thursday, October 13, 2016

Counter-Intuitive Driving

Everyone knows from experience that one driver can cause a traffic jam. The extreme example is a bad accident during peak periods, when traffic is delayed for many hours.

(WSJ Graphic)
But the opposite is also true: [bold added]
An individual driver, by preventing bottlenecks and maintaining a steady speed, can sometimes single-handedly ease or break up a traffic jam.

The techniques are simple, though some of them—such as leaving a large gap between your car and the one in front and freely letting other drivers cut in—feel counterintuitive to most drivers.
The approach is common-sense but requires the sublimation of territoriality ("it's my lane"), impatience, and pride ("aggressive" driving is still a complimentary phrase). Also, un-jamming methods are futile when the number of cars is overwhelming.

According to Seattle engineer William Beaty,
His techniques won’t work if you’re already locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic and can’t find anywhere to open a gap, Mr. Beaty says. Also, some congestion is irreducible, when the volume of traffic exceeds the capacity of the road.
A couple more comments, if one wants to adopt this method of driving:

1) Allow the gap to open in front, but don't drive so slowly that cars behind you are always changing lanes to pass. The risk of an accident increases as they cut in front of left-lane speeders.

2) When your frustration builds, do a quick thought experiment: imagine the potential cost in $$$ and/or bodily injury by driving aggressively and measure that against the potential time savings, normally a few minutes. It's a sobering comparison, so relax, breathe, and pity the Type-A drivers who are damaging their health, whether or not they get into an accident.

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