12 Attitudes That Make Traffic Congestion Even Worse
Freeway congestion would not be as bad as it is if it were not for a dozen driver attitudes that slow traffic and make our daily commutes more difficult.
by Jerome F. Winzig
As the U.S. population has increased, suburbs have expanded, and employment has grown decentralized, traffic congestion has worsened. Minneapolis is no exception, although congestion is not yet as bad here as in larger urban centers. Freeways have been extended and widened and some bottlenecks have been relieved. There are many debates about new freeways versus mass transit, and construction has begun on a light rail line.
However, public debate about congestion seldom focuses on driver behaviors that began to appear as freeways became busier. Over time, these behaviors have increased. They noticeably worsen congestion on today's busy freeways, make everyone else's daily commute nerve-wracking, and cause accidents, injuries, and deaths.
A dozen attitudes underlie the worst behaviors:
- Tailgate whenever possible. - Intimidate those in front of you to drive faster by following them by less than a single car length. Assume your reaction time is superhuman. Take delight in spooking drivers in front of you into following the next car too closely until several cars are crammed tightly together.
- Drive an automatic transmission with two feet. - Drive with one foot on the accelerator and the other on the brake pedal. Use the brake pedal liberally, while accelerating, cruising in smooth-flowing traffic, or driving around gentle curves. Enjoy the fact that drivers behind you will think traffic is slowing down and will slam on their own brakes.
- Avoid traveling with the prevailing traffic flow. - Never drive at the same speed as everyone else. Drive faster than everyone else in sight while changing lanes madly. Or drive slower, even as cars stack up behind you and try to pass on both sides.
- Go to the head of the line. - When traffic in an exit lane slows down, switch to another lane, drive as fast as possible, and insert your car into the exit lane at the last possible moment. If you're really good, you can force dozens of other drivers to slam on their brakes.
- Change lanes two at a time. - Rapidly zip in front of cars in two or more lanes to reach a distant lane that is currently moving slightly faster while disrupting traffic in several lanes at once.
- Pass the car in front. - Switch lanes to pass just one car, even if that car is right behind another and you have to squeeze in front of the other driver and force everyone else in that lane to slow down.
- Emulate those who cause accidents. - If you come upon a rush-hour accident, attempt to recreate the behavior that caused the accident. Sometimes this means outdoing those who caused the accident by racing on the shoulder to get ahead a little more. - If you come upon a rush-hour accident, attempt to recreate the behavior that caused the accident. Sometimes this means outdoing those who caused the accident by racing on the shoulder to get ahead a little more.
- Use entrance ramps like city streets. - Never drive over 30 miles per hour on an entrance ramp. Postpone any attempt to match the prevailing traffic's speed. Then swerve in front of cars traveling much faster.
- Stay in lanes that are ending. - When a sign says, "Lane ends in one-half mile," remain in that lane for at least seven blocks. Pass as many other drivers who moved over earlier as possible.
- Be unfair. - When caught in a traffic jam where two lanes have to merge into one and cars are bumper to bumper, do not take turns with those in the other lane. Avoid looking at them while doing so.
- Change lanes often without signaling. - Don't stay in one lane too long. Change lanes frequently and repeatedly. Don't use your turn signals, as this gives away the advantage of surprise. - Don't stay in one lane too long. Change lanes frequently and repeatedly. Don't use your turn signals, as this gives away the advantage of surprise.
- Drive aggressively. - Use the most assertive of these behaviors constantly. Other drivers will admire you as they watch your car swerve dangerously through heavy traffic and will be jealous when they discover you have taken the same exit as they have and are three cars ahead of them.
What would our daily commutes would be like if drivers with these attitudes were banned from driving during rush hour and forced to use their "talents" in traffic conditions where they could do far less harm?