Saturday, December 22, 2007

Traffic

No, not the movie (which I haven't seen), but that phenomenon that is a part of every Southern California resident's life. My commute to work is roughly 35 miles each way, so 70 miles a day, 350 miles a week (if I go to the office everyday). That's a lot of driving and a lot of traffic. And a lot of observations.

I've noted a few things, namely: a) people brake too much and for no reason at all, b) traffic jams usually happen for no reason at all, too, c) people tend to slow down when a cop has someone else pulled over, and d) all that we learned about lining up and taking turns in kindergarten goes out the window when we're driving. I read all this in an article a while ago (I wish I could find you the link), and it all seems like common sense, but it's amazing how everyone is intent on riding everyone else's ass just to get to their destination a few seconds sooner.

Regarding point A, cars do slow down when you take your foot off the accelerator/gas pedal. Braking is not always necessary and leads to the brake pads wearing out too soon, especially in high speed conditions. And usually, if you're slamming the brakes, there's not enough space between your car and the car in front of you, i.e., you are tailgating. Easing off the accelerator and leaving a good amount of space does wonders for traffic flow and sanity whilst stuck in traffic. I'd much rather prefer to crawl along slowly than speed up, slow down, speed up more, stop, etc.

Once traffic really does speed up and the rest of the freeway is clear cruising, it makes one wonder why there was a traffic jam at all. Too many people trying to go in the same direction at once? Maybe. A cop who is writing a ticket for someone else cannot physically monitor his radar gun and jump in the car after you. Keep going! If there were an accident or stalled car, then fine, but usually there's absolutely nothing there. Or at least, no indication of anything that happened. Even if something did happen, is it really necessary for everyone to rubberneck and become lookie-loos?? Well, I suppose if it were a spectacular accident, that may warrant a bit of gawking, but people exchanging information is nothing exciting.

And, I bet you, more often than not, these accidents result from some overeager, I-am-too-the-cool hotshot trying to beat everyone who's patiently trundling along in line to merge on the freeway. Really, you're not going to get anywhere faster by half driving on the shoulder and speeding past everyone only to end up a few hundred feet in front of everyone else. In traffic. We learned how to take turns when we were kids, and merging should be a lot like the teeth on a zipper -- one after the other. I mean, if the rest of us are waiting in line, so can you. And we're in traffic. Not going anywhere fast.

With as much emphasis put on the rules of the road and not driving drunk or while distracted, perhaps there should also be efforts to promote road ettiquette. We're all tired and just want to get home, but stupid driving and bad road manner can just ruin the joy of getting home. No one wants road rage, but for the millions who spend a good chunk of their lives on the road, a little politeness and yielding goes a long way.

Edit 12.06.07:

While driving into work today, I thought of two more things regarding lane changes -- giving space to incoming cars and signalling. Both of these go hand in hand, but it's interesting to note how many people will signal ex post facto and sort of expect you to know they're coming into the lane. That's why the signal is there, to signal your intentions! It works wonders, really. That way the other driver can give you room for your lane change. If s/he is inclined to give you the room that is. There's another class of people who are very into the "me first" mentality and will leave about an inch of space between their front bumper and the other car's rear bumper just to prevent someone else from getting in front of them. Again, you're in traffic going nowhere fast. Letting someone in who needs to exit or use the interchange won't slow you down significantly. Sheesh.

1 comment:

ali said...

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