By Mackenzie Pedersen, Staff Writer
You experience it when you leave for work in the morning and when you head home in the evening. It occurs when there is road construction (no matter the time of day). This anomaly occurs when a cop has someone pulled over to the side of the road. It appears as though every time you enter your vehicle, this phenomenon is unavoidable! That’s right, it’s TRAFFIC!
If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, one of most oft-used quotes would mostly certainly re-read, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain except for Death, Taxes, and Traffic.”
Year after year, research indicates that people are spending more time in traffic than ever before. According to the INRIX index of 2017, drivers in Los Angeles spent, on average, 102 hours stuck in traffic per year. That equates to at least 2.5 full-time work weeks (assuming the average work week is 40 hours, of course)! Similarly, in 2017, drivers in New York lost an average of 91 hours due to traffic. Needless to say, that is an astonishing amount of wasted time. Can you imagine all the tasks that could be achieved instead? More so, traffic doesn’t just waste the time of those trapped in its painfully slow clutches—it also steals their money.
For those who live in Los Angeles, those 102 hours spent in traffic cost the residents approximately $2,828 each and $19.2 billion for the city as a whole. Furthermore, the average cost per driver across the United States is approximately $1445.17, according to the INRIX 2017 index. This is formulated through direct and indirect costs. The direct costs are embodied by the fuel used as well as the time wasted. Indirect costs refer to the different tolls and fees that various people endure.
According to the Chief Economist at Inrix, Dr. Graham Cookson: “Congestion costs the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, and threatens future economic growth and lowers our quality of life… If we’re to avoid traffic congestion becoming a further drain on our economy, we must invest in intelligent transportation systems to tackle our mobility challenges.”
So, what is the cause of this life-sucking, money hungry, monster you ask?
It’s a combination of too many people on the road and one person stepping on their brakes a little too hard. In regards to one person starting a traffic jam, this is known as a Phantom Traffic Jam. Let’s say for instance that a car breaks suddenly on the highway. Suddenly, the car behind it must quickly break to avoid an accident. Then, the drivers to the side must break as well, for safety’s sake. Then the cars behind them must follow suit and break too. This sequence continues to trickle down until, finally, someone is forced to come to a full stop. And presto, you are now stuck in a traffic jam.
Is there a way to alleviate traffic?
According to William Beaty, an engineer from Seattle, traffic can be altered if each person alters their driving habit a little bit. The strategy suggested by Mr. Beaty is simple: leave several cars of space ahead of you and maintain a slow, steady speed. This works for a variety of reasons.
First, if you never have to break, then the person behind you never has to break also. Secondly, providing several cars of space allow for those trying to change lanes to do so. Drivers often unintentionally stop the flow of traffic so they can merge onto the highway, or change lanes in preparation to exit. If you provide enough space, then the need to stop the flow of traffic is averted. Finally, it’s safer. The safer you drive, the less likely an accident is to occur. This entails that traffic can continue to flow without the disruption of a fender-bender, or, at least one caused by you.
Mr. Beaty has tested his theory, first-hand, down the Seattle I-5 many times and has found it successful. It has become so successful that this method of purposeful driving has been coined as ‘jam-absorption driving.’ Several Chinese universities, as well as some Japanese researchers, have conducted studies and proven this technique useful in mitigating traffic.
Furthermore, Mr. Beaty suggests that traffic congestion is similar to waves of water. Even the smallest of obstructions, such as a driver suddenly swerving or slowing to gawk at the car that has parked off to the side of the freeway, can trigger a reaction. This reaction causes drivers to hit their brakes, thus assisting in a traffic jam. For more useful driving tips, you can visit William Beaty’s website Traffic Waves. However, this technique will not always be fruitful. In times where roads are merely overloaded, there is no escape. Hopefully, with the future heading towards self-driving cars, these vehicles will be able to sense the location and trajectory of other vehicles and maintain constant speed to ultimately dissolve traffic altogether.
So where might have the worst traffic you ask?
The top 20 Cities with the worst traffic worldwide, as of 2017, include:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Sao Paulo
- San Francisco
- Miami, FL
- Washington D.C.
For now, we live with this anomaly as an annoying part of our daily routine. And if you live in any of these top 20 cities with the worst traffic, you know this concept very well.