How to Avoid Contributing to Traffic Congestion


If you live in an urban area, traffic congestion can be a major daily headache. It’s bad enough that there isn’t enough road capacity for the increasing numbers of vehicles traveling on them, rude and aggressive drivers make things even worse. Do you want to avoid being part of the problem and contribute to your community in a positive way? Taking mass transit or walking, and using good driving techniques are all ways you can avoid contributing to traffic congestion.

The best way to avoid contributing to traffic congestion is to take mass transit. When traveling around town, jump on a bus or train instead of in your car. Taking mass transit can be faster, cheaper, and more relaxing. It also helps minimize environmental damage caused by excessive car use.

Active transportation (walking, jogging, etc.) is another great way of reducing congestion. Active transportation takes cars off roads and is the most cost effective means of transportation for short distances. This is also an easy way to improve your health, cut your gas bill and save the environment.

  • If you drive in the street, don’t obstruct or confuse motorized traffic needlessly. Stay to the slow side of the road as long as it’s safe and practical. Signal your turns.

Most drivers are zoned out in their own little worlds, paying little attention to what’s going on, even a car-length or two ahead of them. Start making an active effort to stay alert by scanning ahead as far as you can see. Your peripheral vision will take care of what isn’t directly ahead of you. Watch for slowing ahead for road hazards and for accidents or other problems at the road side. Anticipate slowdowns and back off or downshift even if you are driving an automatic. Don’t be a brake tapper on the freeway. If you see a road hazard, such as debris in the road, call the law enforcement agency through a non emergency line or social media and report the hazard. The sooner someone reports a problem, the less impact it will have on the commute.

  • If someone is creating a minor problem through not paying attention remind them with a brief toot of the horn and don’t worry about it if it isn’t resolved to your satisfaction. Use a long, loud honk only for danger.

When you will be using a freeway junction or exiting the freeway, entering or exiting the carpool or express lanes, don’t wait until the last minute to merge over. You don’t have to get over Kilometers ahead, but merging smoothly keeps traffic flowing.

After stopping at one of a series of stop lights in the CBD or elsewhere with many stop lights, accelerate briskly to and, particularly if you are starting late from toward the back of a queue, the speed limit. Then, with luck, you can continue at the speed limit through many stop lights which are generally synchronized to let a batch of cars going that fast through.

  • Accelerate “briskly” as economy cars go, not at full power in a fast car, and do not follow too closely. It could be unexpected and dangerous.

If there are multiple lanes in the same direction, choose a center lane to go straight because the others can back up with cars turning left and right. If there are only two, glance ahead for signs of slowing traffic, maintain some distance in front, and signal and prepare to turn if you see a backup. Even if you can’t find an opening to safely change lanes yourself, you will help direct traffic around the obstruction.

When there’s an accident or a breakdown on the side of the road, stopping (or slowing down) to take a look is the worst thing you can do. Remember, it creates a log jam that prevents emergency vehicles from getting help to the injured, and it slows down everyone behind you. Consider how you would feel if you or your mother or child were victims of the accident. You would want those paramedics at the accident site instantly, not stuck in traffic while strangers gawked at the unfolding tragedy. Traffic collisions may be interesting and compelling to see, but slowing down to look causes huge traffic jams that can take hours to clear. And if it’s just a roadside breakdown, let’s face it: we’ve all seen what a flat tire or a steaming radiator looks like. The last thing everyone needs is one more person slowing down to take a picture or video, or just a really long, nosy look.

If your car begins to break down, move to the slow lane if you can, slow down, and pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. A flat tire can do terrible damage to the rest of your car if you attempt to continue driving on it, and almost any car trouble is made worse by allowing the engine to run until it actually breaks down and quits. Pull over and stop your car, then signal or use your cell phone to get help immediately.

Texting, reading the newspaper or putting a make-up on, or doing other things that require your attention is inconsiderate to other drivers who must then either honk to wake you up to the rest of the world, or wait until you wake on your own. The idea is to remain alert enough to keep traffic flow moving as best it can. Remember: in most jurisdictions, it is now illegal to talk/text on your phone or even fiddle with a GPS unit while in traffic.

If you find you are constantly frustrated, eyes bulging and angry, every single time you have to make your commute, try to remember: there is little you alone can do to alleviate traffic congestion. All you can do is change your own attitude. If your daily commute causes your blood pressure to rise every day, consider changing jobs or moving closer to work. Or, simply accept that traffic is going to be a hassle and just use the time on the road for reflection and relaxation. Take audio books or music along – an audio book can be quite involving, and if you can get into it, can make your commute much more enjoyable due to your interest in finding out what happens next.

You have a lot of power here. Use your power for good. When someone else wants a lane ahead of you, graciously fall back and let him have it. When someone else makes a mistake, remember that you have also made mistakes – you’ve overshot where you wanted to be and pulled a crazy U where you shouldn’t have. You’ve pulled out into traffic causing someone to lay on their horn as they nearly ploughed into you. Others have had to step on their brakes hard to avoid hitting you – or they probably will at some point if they haven’t yet. When someone else pulls a bonehead maneuver in front of you, let them go without retaliation. Don’t rub it in. Smile and wave, or if you must, make a silent “nkt nkt” gesture as you wag a warning finger at them to let them know they’ve just narrowly escaped a real problem. But let it go at that and settle back into your ride.

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