Traffic Jams! You Can Control And Prevent Them You Know!

Posted by under Rants, on 2 November 2011 @ 7:33pm.

My next little rant is about traffic jams and how they’re so easy to control and even prevent if you know how.

Just this morning I was on the motorway for work, and there are ongoing roadworks which have been there for close to a month now if not a little longer. Many mornings there are traffic jams where the number of lanes changes from 3 to 2 as the contraflow begins. If drivers know how to manage such a change on the road there would not be traffic jams! There is still plenty of road for all of the drivers, but it’s knowing how to use it that is important.

Picture this: You’re in the middle lane and you get signs to say the 3rd lane is closing in 800 yards and the speed limit is now 50mph. What do you do? Most drivers will take no notice until it’s too late, where they’ll employ heavy braking and try to force their way into another lane that is not closed. Not only can this be dangerous but it also causes traffic jams. The drivers behind you in both lanes have to put their brakes on too. This causes drivers behind them to panic and put their brakes on even harder, and the effect cascades all the way back through the traffic. Eventually you’re all going so slow because of forcing your way into a free lane that traffic almost grinds to a halt. Congratulations, you’ve all caused a traffic jam.

So how can you prevent it?

Picture this instead: You’re in the 3rd lane of the motorway and you see the 800 yards and 50mph sign. Pull in and slow your speed down gently to the 50mph without brakes, just use engine braking. Everyone else around you also does the same thing in plenty of time so that you’re all pulled in and doing the correct speed limit in time. No fuss! Everyone is doing the right speed. there was no panicking. That wasn’t so hard was it?

OK, so things don’t always go to plan, we all know that.

If you’re in a traffic jam, what can you do to avoid it?

It’s actually easier than you think. It all comes down to two basic rules.

1. Keep your distance – By keeping your distance, if the traffic in front has to slow down, the gap you leave makes up for this until the traffic in front picks up again which often happens quite quickly. Leave about 10 car lengths and you should always have plenty of space.

2. Let people in! – If someone wants to pull in because of a closed lane, or they simply want to change lanes, then let them! Don’t force them to slow down to make the move, help them out. That way you reduce the amount traffic behind you has to slow down and you prevent the jam becoming worse. You may not be feeling nice during a traffic jam, especially if you’re late, but it pays to help other people. And remember, being nice puts everyone in a good mood!

Why does it work?

It’s all due to the stop-start cascade effect. If one car stops, the car behind has to stop. By the time the first car is moving again, the second car can move a few seconds later. But it’s already too late, the cascade has started. If you employ point 1 (keep your distance) you can avoid starting a cascade effect but you can also stop one too. Easy! This also applies to point 2 as well but in a lesser way.

So there you go, a comprehensive guide to controlling a traffic jam. What’s better, is it only takes 1 or 2 people doing this for it to start working. If everyone did it, there would be a hell of a lot less traffic jams on the roads today. I firmly believe it should be taught and tested (somehow) as part of the driving test/exam, especially now that we are seeing more and more vehicles on the road each year.