Traffic jams caused by both timid and aggressive motorists

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Car Rental News - 20/09/2010


Scientists say both styles of driver lie behind major traffic jams.

Though there can be valid reasons for problems with traffic, such as accidents or road works, it is how motorists respond to the problem that really lies behind traffic jams. Scientists say what they call a wave of deceleration can travel back through following traffic, eventually leading to cars having to come to a complete stop.

The real cause of this wave of deceleration, say researchers, are motorists whose driving styles lead to inappropriate responses when confronted with a problem in the road. This behaviour can include aggression, such as driving too fast or following other cars too closely. It can also include drivers who are too timid, or lack sufficient confidence, and leave too big a gap behind the car in front.

It is these kinds of driving habits that are the root cause of the kinds of stop-start traffic jams that lead to large numbers of furious drivers stuck in long tailbacks. The study was conducted by Dr Jorge Laval at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s school of civil and environmental engineering in Atlanta. He worked with colleagues at France’s University of Lyon.

Together, the researchers found that every time drivers change speed, drivers following also change their speed. This leads to the altered speed moving back through traffic like a wave. Were all drivers to respond identically, then traffic would not be forced to stop. However, in reality, the different driving styles of aggressive and timid motorists leads to the overall speed of traffic slowing, and eventually grinding to a halt, if the problems are severe.

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