Say one good thing about the 2008 recession: Say it made roadways safer by reducing the daily number of commuters. Since the economy has largely recovered from the housing crisis, as many people are heading to work as did before the Great Recession. As a result, highways and byways around the U.S. are almost filled to bursting during morning and evening rush hours.
This is bad news for a few reasons. First, the more vehicles there are on the road, the greater the air pollution around our cities. Stopping and starting is the least efficient way to drive, so traffic jams and congestion increases fuel consumption. Worse, the carbon dioxide emissions peak significantly during rush hour, exacerbating global warming and hastening the degradation of our environment.
Additionally, congestion makes it difficult for emergency vehicles to travel the roads. Accidents and emergencies occur at all times of day, and ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars must be able to reach scenes before situations change for the worse. When a city is gridlocked for hours on end, any number of tragedies could go unanswered while emergency vehicles wait for cars to clear.
However, most immediately pressing to most drivers is the safety of their vehicles. Frequent acceleration, breaking, and idling isn’t good for cars and trucks; even modern vehicles are built for continuous movement on highways and surface streets. Stopping and going, stopping and going again leads to more frequent needs for repair and maintenance. Further, there is a dramatically higher chance for collisions — both because of the closeness of cars and because tensions run high in the mist of traffic.
Fortunately, you can take action to reduce the congestion in your area and keep everyone safer and happier on the road. Here are a few solutions to the worsening problem of traffic congestion.
Practice Safe Driving Habits
Not all traffic laws are designed purely to keep drivers and pedestrians safe. For example, cities around the U.S. only adopted speed limits in the mid-20th century to maximize fuel efficiency and combat the fuel shortage. Today, by adhering to traffic laws and practicing safe driving habits, not only will you lessen the likelihood of dangerous collisions, but you will have an impact on roadway congestion in your area. If you want to avoid calling an accident lawyer in San Antonio, San Diego, or Santa Fe, here are a few top tips to keep lanes moving and traffic flowing:
- Take some space. You should always leave room for at least one whole vehicle between you and the car in front of you. This is good for several reasons. If a car in the next lane wants to merge, you don’t have to slow down or speed up to help. Additionally, if the car in front of you breaks, you have some time before you need to break. Which brings us to the next tip:
- Avoid braking. When you brake, the cars behind you replicate your behavior — unless one of them is wise enough to make space. Constant braking and accelerating is bad for vehicle health and only exacerbates congestion. You should drive slow enough to avoid slamming on your brakes when traffic slows or stops and:
- Avoid surging. Many drivers have the instinct to speed up as quickly as possible, closing gaps in the hopes traffic will speed up and they can get places faster. However, in heavy traffic, speeding up for 15 feet only to slam on your brakes is not efficient. By quitting this behavior, driving slowly and steadily, you can avoid braking wantonly, too.
- Drive the optimal route. If highways are packed, some drivers try to skip the traffic by taking surface streets. However, these roadways are not designed for peak efficiency, so they can rarely handle excess traffic. You should consider learning about the optimal routes in your areato prevent the development of jams.
- Stop gawking. Collisions are a major source of traffic congestion. On one hand, wrecked cars and emergency vehicles do take up roadway space, but more importantly, unrelated drivers tend to slow down to check out big crashes. Someone else’s crash isn’t your problem (provided there are already first responders), and you should drive on without a second glance.
- Zip up. Finally, merging zones tend to slow down significantly during busy times of day — but they don’t have to. If everyone follows the zipper method, traffic could move smoothly without delay.
In addition to these suggestions, you could consider taking a break from driving one day per week and take advantage of congestion-relieving public transit options instead. Additionally, you should consider speaking to your local representatives about serious traffic issues, of which they might not be aware. Everyone is responsible for traffic congestion, and everyone should have a hand in resolving it — including you.