Most of us have experienced heavy traffic. Some of us spend more than 10 hours a week in it, gradually imprinting our bottom into our car seat. So, what are the primary causes of the stop-start traffic that afflicts our motorways and urban streets during rush hour periods, and our main highways in holiday periods? While you won’t recognise any of the following traits and faults in your own driving, please tell your friends, most of whom are morons behind the wheel.
Lines of traffic form at traffic lights. The lights go green, and they’re off¦well, sometimes only just. Green proponents may argue that pulling away from the lights at a gentle pace minimises emissions, and I’d be inclined to agree. But it also means that far less cars get through the lights behind the tortoise, which means they then sit at the lights for another cycle, spewing fumes into the atmosphere.
Remedy 1: When the lights go green, pull away sensibly vigorously.
Merging and entering a motorway, or pulling into traffic from a side street
You wouldn’t, while walking down the pavement at 5km/h decide to step into a street of traffic doing 55km/h — the speed differential means you’ll either get run over, or drivers will need to brake heavily. But, people don’t think like this when using motorway onramps. We need signs at the beginning of onramps saying ‘Floor it now’, and ‘Match your speed’. This way, when you merge into traffic you are not causing lines of traffic all the way back up the motorway to have to brake, which reduces the overall speed. The same applies when exiting a passing lane and merging back into other traffic — match the speed back down to the level of the other traffic.
Remedy 2: As soon as you’re out of that 50-limit, get up to the same speed as the other traffic. If you’re pulling into traffic, match your speed as quickly as possible. If you’re changing lanes, match your speed before you change, or wait for a big enough gap.
Kids, cellphones, eating, putting on makeup: they all cause varying degrees of erratic driving. Erratic driving means you’re probably unnecessarily slowing down, and changing lanes without indicating, causing others to brake to avoid you.
Remedy 3: Vasectomy, message service, and getting up 10 minutes earlier
A car will naturally slow down slightly when going uphill, and speed up when going downhill. One of the basic car control skills is to keep a constant speed. So, as soon as you notice the gradient increasing (and you might even hear the engine tone change), give it a bit more gas and you’ll be sweet.
Remedy 4: Push the pedal on the right a little harder when going uphill
If you are afraid of driving on the motorway, you shouldn’t be driving on the motorway. If you’re afraid of driving, full stop, sell your car.
Remedy 5: Public transport, bike, walking and car pooling
Accidents and rubbernecking
Our morbid fascination with other people’s demise means we just can’t help but look at accident scenes. Is it someone we know? Is it an expensive car? Then suddenly you’ve run into the back of the car in front like an idiot. Well done.
Remedy 6: The police should have blackout screens to surround accidents. Better still, let’s not have accidents!
People who are on and off the brakes, and people who can’t judge braking distances cause all manner of havoc for motorists following them. If you are watching several cars ahead, you can anticipate how much you’ll need to brake, even smoothing out the panic braking of some of the half-wits ahead.
Remedy 7: Don’t just follow the taillights ahead of you — look 3-4 cars ahead at least (if possible)
Driving too slow
We’re all busy, and roads are designed for commerce as well as pleasure. So, the next time you’re worried that carrots have gone up in price again, remember that slow drivers cause hold ups. Slow drivers reduce the efficiency of transport carriers when doing their job because it takes them longer. Yes, slow drivers (to a point) can use less fuel and if they crash it’s not quite as messy, but they also frustrate the majority of other drivers, and frustrated drivers are dangerous. This would also apply to campervans and Sunday drivers, plus those that fall into the ‘fear’ category (above)
Remedy 8: A bit of courtesy and commonsense — pulling over, or maybe just getting a move on!
Driving too fast
Driving much faster than the other traffic makes people nervous. Plus, while it might be fun — actually, it is fun — it’s not the most economical way of getting around.
Remedy 9: A bit more courtesy and commonsense — drive to the conditions
Middle-lane magnetism: it’s when you are driving along in the middle lane, not overtaking anything. So, the slow lane is totally empty, and you’ve just reduced the motorway effectively to two lanes. Well done. Even worse is if you’re in the fast lane (or ‘the overtaking lane’ as the politically correct call it), and you are either not overtaking anything, or the vehicle you are overtaking is doing 0.25km/h less than you.
Remedy 10: Move to the left, and don’t dawdle when overtaking.
Now you have all the tools to tell your friends how to be excellent drivers. What are you waiting for? Go to!
Words Darren Cottingham