• Aug 1, 2009
Drive like a sheep, and you get stuck. Break some rules here and there for the good of traffic flow, and everyone benefits. A new traffic study by physicists at Sweden's Umea University found that while we're all taught to obey the traffic rules no matter what, doing so just makes for bottlenecks. Mix in some maverick drivers, however, and suddenly, logjams begin to ease as the percentage of drivers willing to pass on the right or zip past a pack of trundling cars on a two-lane actually help to keep the traffic flowing smoothly.
While you might take the findings as an endorsement of behind-the-wheel jerkdom, chill out there for a second, Rat Fink. Tailgating, a behavior many impatient motorists exhibit, creates rolling platoons of cars without enough following distance to effectively brake if need be. In other words, while it's occasionally beneficial to sidestep the letter of the law, following too closely creates potential pile-ups. The ideal ratio seems to be 60-percent lemmings, 40-percent speed-addled free thinkers. That sounds like research we can put into practice pretty much immediately, though it's going to be a flimsy argument in traffic court.

[Source: PhysicsBuzz | Photo:biblicone (CC 2.0)]


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  • 88 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      MERGE FROM THE LEFT TO YOUR RIGHT....
      is obviously what I meant to type.


      Sorry, this topic really pisses me off.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Anyone who would reach this type of conclusion about aggresive driving is a down to earth idiot and shows how ignorant educated persons can be when it comes to common sense. It takes these type of geniuses to tell drivers about any number of random scenarios that might ease congestion but truly underestimates the serious nature of the issue.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The excellent recent book "Traffic" makes the same point. For example, traffic engineers have found that traffic moves noticeably faster, when three lanes are merging into two, if a certain number of drivers act like what many of us consider to be jerks, and accelerate to the very end of the closed lane and then force their way into the merge rather than politely after-you-alphonse merging half a mile before the blockage.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Traffic is a great book. I think it should be a required reading for all new drivers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Merging in highway construction zones is the hole in this little exercise.

        It assumes there WON'T be a bunch of typical you're-not-merging-in-front-of-me drivers out there if you go with the 'wait until the last second' merge style. Once a line starts forming, cutting in front of everyone just makes the merged line go more slowly. People get impatient and cut ahead because someone else did precisely the same thing and slowed traffic down already. Then the people who've been waiting for a while don't feel obliged to let the cutters in line, causing them to dive in....slowing everyone behind when they jam their brakes.

        Interesting idea to hold lanes until a point shortly before the merge. If both lanes are going roughly the same speed, merging could cause less emergency braking.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think it still all comes down to keeping a reasonable distance between you and the car in front of you. If people didn't glue themselves to the bumper in front of them, merging at the last moment would indeed be the best system. Unfortunately, when 1 car has to squeeze into a 1/2 car space, that's when people get a bit upset.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've seen signs on highways under construction recently (route 81, I think), that said "maintain lane until merge point." Meaning, stay in two lanes until the last minute. I'm still trying to wrap my head around why it makes a difference, since traffic is a serial process. The only thing I can think of is that by having more jerk-mergers, the average speed at the merge point is increased by a small amount. I find that hard to believe, because it causes all kinds of extra braking, but apparently something like that happens...
      JIm
      • 5 Years Ago
      IN GERMANY AND MOST OF EUROPE, IF YOU FAIL STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE EXCEPT TO PASS YOU LOSE YOUR DRIVING PRIVILAGE. GERMANY IS ESPECIALLY STRICT ABOUT THIS LAW. LEARN THE LAW, LIVE IT, LOVE IT, JUST DO IT...OR I'LL MOVE YOU OUT OF THE PASSING LANE!
      Tom
      • 5 Years Ago
      I do believe law enforcement should focus on the impeders not the speeders !! To many licensed drivers havent retained or never learned the stay right except to pass rule.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've known that for years! I actually call it "progressive driving" because the whole point is to keep me and as many other people as possible moving forward. It isn't that difficult to figure this out, if only everybody would just stop being such idots!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      I rarely get stuck in traffic jam for more than 40 minutes because I always cut in the fastest lane available . I find out more than a decade ago, sitting in your lane and praying will get you no where...
      inexorabletruth
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've driven a lot of miles as a professional driver, and I've never seen irresponsible or reckless driving actually help traffic conditions. Most of the time, it only seems to make things worse.
      I know I can't change the way the world drives, but sometimes I wish I could. However, for those of you out there who hate traffic jams, speeding tickets and fender benders, try increasing your following distance, being observant to traffic conditions within a 1/4 mile radius of you, and extending a little common courtesy on the roads out there. At first, these things take a conscious effort, but after a few months, the behavior becomes second nature, and you'll find that your commute will be much more enjoyable... and safer.
      • 5 Years Ago
      OK TIME TO VENT.

      All it takes is for people to file themselves to a lane that's appropriate for their speed. The worst is people who drive on the fast lane locked at 60-65 and either are not aware of a train of cars waiting to pass or they think since it's the law they're not doing anything wrong driving at/below speed limit.

      BTW not to be sexist but I find women drivers as about 75% of the culprit... I commute 90 miles a day so I watch who these people are? And don't get me started on surface streets... they are the worst at low speed manuevers.

      I'm Asian BTW and I think most middle-aged Asian drivers SUCKKKKKKK. The Korean ladies with their baseball caps and pony tails driving Mercedes. The Chinese women and their full-facial visors to block UV rays and keep their skin from tanning. The Indian women usually has a couple of kids in the back driving vans. These people hold up traffic and when you finally get by them and stare they don't even notice you; they are so fixed at looking dead ahead... ALWAYS. You give them the finger and they're thinking what's for dinner.

      All this stuff pisses me off so much I just want to make signs and hold them up while I honk at them. Signs like "MOVE THE F*CK OVER!!!!!!" and make them in various languages like Chinese and Korean.

      OK I'm done. PEACE

      • 5 Years Ago
      That doesn;t work here in utah
      • 5 Years Ago
      And to all of you who can't drive your way out of a wet paper sack, fast drivers are NOT
      necessarily 'jerks'. Just because I can manuever a vehicle and get where I am going faster than you just proves that YOU are the jerk who can't do it and you know it so you drive like an idiot.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I KNEW IT!!!
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is a crock of BS and Dan Roth, the (so-called) author, is a total jerk for writing it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        There's nothing wrong w/ talking on the phone while driving IF you're already a competent person/driver. You may was well start banning conversations with passengers or adjusting your radio
        • 5 Years Ago
        @SHAC

        Sure there is. The person on the phone isn't in the car. If something is about to happen, your passenger will stop talking and go "OH SHIIIIIIII"
        • 5 Years Ago
        There is a delicate balance between efficient driving and safe driving. True efficient driving would be everyone going top speed of their cars while leaving barely any room. This would lead to a very fast commute, however with those conditions accidents are MUCH more likely. Safe driving would consist of everyone going slow and leaving much room on the highway. There would be no delays due to accidents though. The best place to be, I believe, is in between, a little bit on the efficient side.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just call me Mr. 40%, you lemming. And get out of the way.
        Quantumphysics
        • 5 Years Ago
        There is a stupid driver lane...

        HOV
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