Traffic jams intrigueme, not the ones with some discernible cause, say road works or an accident, but more the apparently random build-ups of vehicles along a stretch of road, especially freeways, that seem to crop up without rhyme or reason.
Traffic flow instabilities arise, Horn explains, because variations in velocity are magnified as they pass through a lane of traffic. “Suppose that you introduce a perturbation by just braking really hard for a moment, then that will propagate upstream and increase in amplitude as it goes away from you,” Horn says. “It’s kind of a chaotic system. It has positive feedback, and some little perturbation can get it going.”
I discovered this one day when, in the pre-enlightened state of “oh, I can’t parallel park very well” I decided one day that maybe I would just try doing exactly (literally) what the directions said, and found to my surprise that I parked absolutely perfectly. And I happened to be driving a rented minivan. After that day, I instantly became able to parallel park, having realized that parallel parking is not a “skill” that you “learn” (you don’t get better by “practicing”), all it is is doing exactly what the directions you originally learned said to do. It does not require judgment developed from practice, merely the mental fortitude to really follow the instructions and not deviate at all.
I linked to an article a few months ago that offered drivers some suggestions for helping to ease traffic congestion during peak commute times. Maintaining a sizeable gap between the vehicle ahead, and allowing other cars to merge into the lane in front, were among ideas advanced.
Just the sort the of situation motorists and emergency services dread… what appear to be gas cylinders, being hauled by a transport vehicle, somehow begin to explode. The question is, how does anyone know when it is safe to approach the scene. Have all the canisters detonated, or have they not?
Something I notice often while out on the freeway… at times I’m just about in the only car on the road, yet minutes later I’m surrounded by slower moving vehicles that seemed to materalise out of nowhere.
Sometimes I wonder if there’s been an accident, or a bunch of cars, maybe driving in convoy, all entered the freeway at the same time, but that seldom turns out to be the case.
While these types of traffic jams, or rather, slower moving waves of traffic, that seem to form for no reason, are clearly a natural road phenomenon, there are steps that you, as a motorist, can take to alleviate, and maybe even help dissipate, these slow downs.
Have you ever been driving on an interstate highway when traffic suddenly slows to a crawl? You inch along for many minutes while waiting to see the accident which must have caused the jam. At the same time you also curse the “rubberneckers” who are causing the whole problem. But then all the cars ahead of you take off at high speed. The jam is over, but no accident, no police cars, nothing. WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT! A traffic jam with no cause? In the rear-view mirror you see all the poor saps behind you still stuck in the jam. But why? If all those people could just speed up at the same time, the whole traffic jam would evaporate. Why don’t they ever do that? What caused the mysterious slowdown in the first place?
An oversize truck was prevented only at the last second from entering the tunnel under Sydney’s harbour, after a large stop sign being projected onto a water screen, that had been activated at the mouth of the tunnel, came to the driver’s attention.
This after the driver apparently failed to notice a number of prior warnings to stop his vehicle as it was deemed too big for the tunnel. I hate to think of the traffic chaos, and who knows what else, that would have resulted had the truck not been stopped in time.
People who evaluate the situation for themselves and cross on their own terms. Finally, my personal ideal. These are people who don’t stupidly run across the street with a blatant disregard for their surroundings. Yet they’ll take a step forward, and as the last car passes they have no problem looking both ways and crossing. They realize that it’s pointless to sit and wait around for the last fifteen seconds while life passes them by and the street sits empty. They’re willing to take a calculated “risk” and not just follow rules blindly because “that’s the way it is.”
While it hasn’t been so bad in recent years, once if you wandered around the streets surrounding Randwick Racecourse or Centennial Park while one of the summer music festivals was in progress, you would witness all manner of bizarre efforts attendees had made to park their cars.
Any space that could fit a car seemed to be fine, be that footpaths, driveways, or garage entrances. Forget the legalities and all, we have a gig to get to after all.
Stop if a traffic signal is orange/amber provided you are able to do so safely. Come to a complete halt at a stop sign, and wait until the way is clear. The posted speed limit is the maximum you can travel at so long as road conditions permit this, otherwise reduce speed.
Yep, I think most drivers know things like this.
Still, there’s probably a slew of lesser known regulations (at least in this jurisdiction) that you may not be aware of… that, as a licensed driver, you are nonetheless obliged to be familiar with, including this law regarding the proper use of car horn. That one was definitely news to me.
Be careful how you say farewell to a friend or relative next time you’re visiting. A toot of the horn and a wave goodbye out the window as you drive down the street could cost you almost $600 and three demerit points in NSW: $298 for the “illegal use of a warning device”, and a further $298 fine (and three points) for having a “limb protrude” from the car. The same “limb protrude” ticket applies to resting your elbow on the window ledge.
There is an alternative to this system – eliminate traffic lights altogether: an idea sometimes called “naked streets” or “shared space.” In their most extreme versions, naked streets have no traffic lights, surface markings, or sidewalks. But some cities, including London, have been experimenting with taking out traffic lights, while leaving the rest of the road system intact. And it turns out that these streets aren’t just safer for cyclists and most pedestrians, they also improve roads for drivers and lessen the impact on the environment.
Apparently the absence of traffic signals results in safer, more responsible, driving by motorists, though my mind still boggles at the prospect of certain intersections I know of being without signals.