Dealing with Stop and Go Traffic

I don’t love stop and go, or very slow traffic, just like pretty much everyone else who drives a car and sits in traffic. It is my person opinion that most traffic messes are caused by two things, bad design, and bad driving habits and following distances. It is also my opinion that most traffic messes can be corrected with a change in design and or a change in driving habits. Generally, traffic slowdowns start at the on ramp and then move to the left from there.

Cars travel too close to each other, not allowing space for the merging cars to enter the lane, or for cars exiting the motorway to enter the lane to exit. This causes the cars that in or near the on ramp lane to want to get towards the “fast lane” to the left to try to move faster. The cars moving to the fast lane have the same issue with too little space and they cause slowdowns and backup in the lanes to the left. In order for this entire lane changing to take place cars have to slow down. As cars slow down the reaction time and lack of space between the cars means that each car has to stop at a faster rate. By the time you get two or three cars back the cars start to come to a complete stop because all of the space is used up. Cars even further back have to stop abruptly and it ripples further backwards from there causing a longer duration stop. This Happens in all of the lanes from right to left, but seems to be worse in the left most none restricted lane because there is nowhere for people to go in that lane as other try to get there to go “faster”. This rippling effect actually causes the fast lane to go slower than the slow lanes on the motorway.

The following drawing roughly illustrates more of what I am trying to explain. To the left you see an example of what things are like now, all of the cars are tightly packed, with cars wanting to enter traffic and move to the left with no space to do this. To the right you see a rough example of how things could be with the tiniest increase to following distance.

Excuse my ugly graphic I tossed it together in a hurry to add a few thousand words to what I am trying to explain. With a very simple idea and understanding of the problem, no room for cars to move sideways, what are some ideas to fix this problem?

  • One method that’s been implemented in most areas is stoplights on onramps. The lights move the backup to the onramp itself and attempt to keep it off the motorway by limiting the cars that are merging. A good idea but it is only really a cover up for the core problem of not enough space. In some cases in heavy traffic you get a backup at the motorway where you merge, and another one behind the light.
  • I’ve seen some areas where they limit your ability to lane change around an onramp or an off ramp. The limiting of the lane changes isolates the traffic impact to the onramp and the lane to the right. This can help deal with the issues to the left but it still does not solve the deep-rooted problem of not enough room in the on ramp lane.
  • Traffic fuckups that are caused by design, bad on ramp, lane reductions, bad turns, and so on are slowly being resolved in areas where they become enough of an issue. Some of these bottlenecks slowly get fixed and the traffic problems go away. Traffic designers are learning and getting better at making roads more efficient, and not making these mistakes in the first place, but that only really helps new construction and expansion.

How I Deal With Traffic

What I like to do to deal with traffic is to drive in slow and give space. When confronted with traffic I try to drive with about a half-mile gap in front of me, and keep a steady speed. My goal is to never stop, and always make room for the car in front of me. This allows plenty of room in front of me for people to merge, and change lanes, and it allows me enough of a buffer so that I don’t have to stop. Without stopping, I can ripple a smoother flow of traffic to those in the lane behind me and have a small positive impact on the commute. This seems to cause the drivers behind me to have a nervous breakdown and start to freak like with a maximum level of rage. I’ve had cars honk, try to ram me, scream at me, try to run me off the road, and pass me on the shoulder; only to get behind the car in front of me and stop. I follow them until traffic starts to flow again; eventually I end up passing them. I always try to be nice and wave at them as I drive by.

I do not get the mentality that dictates that you must be two feet or less from the car in front of you or you are not going to get anywhere. A bit more space and some compassion for the fellow driver would have a major positive impact on the traffic patterns that we have to endure every day. I drive a great deal, about 30,000 miles on average per year. This time on the road gives me all kinds of time to come up with ideas and way to deal with traffic and driving. This is just one of my more brilliant traffic ideas.

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