BACK TO STORM'S JOURNAL
submit an article.
i tried this some time ago, and it works.
your driving habits can cause the trouble that makes you frusterated!
--| A Cure For Traffic Jams |---
By: William Beaty 1998
Once upon a time, years ago, I was driving through a number of stop/go
traffic waves on I-520 at rush hour in Seattle. I decided to try something.
On a day when I immediately started hitting the usual "waves" of stopped
traffic, I decided to drive slow. Rather than repeatedly rushing ahead with
everyone else, only to come to a halt, I decided to try to drive at the
average speed of the traffic. I let a huge gap open up ahead of me, and
timed things so I was arriving at the next "stop-wave" just as the last red
brakelights were turning off ahead of me. It certainly felt wierd to have
that huge empty space ahead of me, but I knew I was driving no slower than
anyone else. Sometimes I hit it just right and never had to touch the brakes
at all, but sometimes I was too fast or slow. There were many "waves" that
evening, and this gave me many opportunities to improve my skill as I drove
I kept this up for maybe half an hour while approaching the city. Finally I
happened to glance at my rearview mirror. There was an interesting sight.
It was dusk, the headlights were on, and I was going down a long hill to the
bridges. I had a view of miles of highway behind me. In the other lane I
could see maybe five of the traffic stop-waves. But in the lane behind me,
for miles, TOTALLY UNIFORM DISTRIBUTION. I hadn't realized it, but by
driving at the average speed, my car had been "eating" traffic waves.
Everyone ahead of me was caught in the stop/go cycle, while everyone behind
me was forced to go at a nice smooth 35MPH or so. My single tiny car had
erased miles and miles of stop-and-go traffic. Just one single "lubricant
atom" had a profound effect on the turbulent particle flow within the
It's always a good idea to drive without changing speed and without
competing with other drivers for bits of headway. But I'd always assumed
that the reasons were philosophical rather than practical (i.e. try to be a
calm, nice person.) But my above experience shows differently. A single
solitary driver, if they stop "competing" and instead adopt some unusual
driving habits, can actually wipe away some of the frustrating traffic
patterns on a highway. That "nice" noncompetitive driver can erase traffic
waves. I suspect that the opposite is also true: normal competitive behaviour
CREATES the traffic waves.
Suppose we push constantly ahead, change lanes to grab a bit of headway, and
always eliminate our forward space in order to prevent other drivers from
"cutting us off". If tiny traffic waves appear, we will rush ahead and then
brake hard, leaving larger waves behind us. Repeated action causes the waves
to grow. Ironic that the angry people who drive as fast as possible might
unwittingly participate in "amplifying" the very conditions that they hate
eMail to: email@example.com
this page last updated: February 1, 2001