Traffic sucks – everyone who has to deal with it says it. But is it because of the traffic – i.e., because of the number of cars on the road?
Or is it because of something else?
“Traffic” is arguably a misnomer for the collective effect of inconsiderate – or inept – drivers. The reason why many people equate traffic – as such – with sucking is because there are more inconsiderate/inept drivers to deal with.
But the fundamental problem is the ineptitude and the inconsideration.
Not the number of cars on the road.
Perhaps one of the clearest-cut examples of this being the drivers who leave car-length gaps between their vehicle and the one ahead of them. Not when traffic is moving but rather when it is stopped or slowing to a stop, as for a red light. The effect of this is to increase “traffic” without actually increasing the number of cars on the road. It increases the lag-time between movement – as when the red light turns green – such that it is more likely cars farther behind in the queue will not make it through the light before it turns red, again.
It’s common to see it up ahead – often, empty or perhaps with one car waiting to make the turn – but you can’t get to the lane because the car ahead of you (or the car ahead of the car ahead of you) has stopped a car length ahead of the car ahead of them. If they had pulled up to within a couple of feet of the car ahead, the space occupied by the line of cars ahead would be less and it would be more likely that cars wanting to get into the left turn lane could do so – without having to first wait for the spaced-out conga line of cars ahead of them to eventually close the gap after the light for them has turned green (and the light for the left turn has turned red).
It is possible some people just have a very poor sense of spatial relationships – but it is hard to believe that anyone cannot see there’s a full car length of empty space between themselves and the car ahead when they aren’t moving. And it is astounding to reflect how commonplace it is for people to make no effort to pull forward when they can see in their rearview that the car behind them is trying to squeeze past to make it into the turn lane before the light turns red, again.
Then again, expecting people to look in their rearview mirrors is apparently expecting too much, these days. If they did – and acted, accordingly – “traffic” would flow much more smoothly.
Same goes for when they’re moving – when they’re not moving with the flow of traffic. Your path isn’t blocked so much by “traffic” but by the car – singular – ahead of you in the left lane who will not drive faster or slower than the car adjacent in the right lane. The simple act of moving over – into the right lane – so as to unblock the left (and passing) lane would, if generally practiced, greatly reduce the bunching up of “traffic.”
Similarly, the cars in the right lane (on a two-lane) who make no effort to briefly move into the left lane (when it’s empty) so as to make it possible for cars waiting to turn onto the road to do so. By not doing so, they make the cars trying to merge wait. When several cars do this, the wait can be long.
And the frustration grows.
But it’s not a problem of too many cars on the road; it is a problem of a few drivers creating problems for the other cars on the road.
Other examples of this include drivers who will not make a right turn at a red light even when it is legal to do so. Instead, they wait for the light to turn green. Making you (and everyone else) wait along with them.
The drivers who come to a near or even complete stop in the middle of a busy road before making a turn. The drivers who cannot competently perform a U-turn and on account of them, making a U-Turn has been made illegal for everyone.
Most of all – above all – the not-paying-attention driver. The ones who aren’t ready to get going when the light goes green. Each moment’s pause compounding into a needless “traffic” jam. The ones who are unable to roll with the ebb and flow of the “traffic” around them, with the result being abrupt slowing/stopping and getting-going again – rather than the smooth flowing that would otherwise be possible.
Even with a lot of “traffic” on the road.
. . .
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