Anti-Jam Driving

06:11 Wed 23 May 2007
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Apparently it may be possible for single cars to break up traffic jams.

The article uses theories of wave dynamics to analyze traffic, conluding that by driving “considerately”, and allowing people to merge in front of you, you help traffic flow in significant ways, and it’s possible for you on your own to offset the effects of, for example, a “rubbernecking” jam.

Some of this makes intuitive sense—if there’s a “rubbernecking section” ahead of you, everyone who goes into that section is forced to slow almost to a halt as they reach it, and they cannot simply accelerate out of it due to the cars in front of them, while the cars at the front of the section can’t get through it quick enough to avoid the buildup behind them. But if you, approaching this jam, slow down ahead of the jam itself, you create a large buffer that makes time for the jam to dissipate before your arrival… and then you simply continue at the same speed instead of stopping. In other words, instead of driving full speed until you’re forced to almost stop, drive at half speed well in advance, and you help the jam dwindle or disappear.

Also, leaving space ahead of you for people to merge into makes jams less likely to occur, at least according to this theory. Having read through most of it, it makes sense. I generally let people merge ahead of me, but I haven’t tried using large spaces in front of me as a way to alleviate jams, something I’ll have to experiment with.

I think this only really applies to highway driving, as the variables are different in city driving.

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