The Science Behind Traffic Jams
Traffic can be infuriating, especially when there's no obvious cause. However, mathematicians have discovered some of the root causes, and one of them may be you.
The problem: saturation
- Traffic jams are commonly caused by saturation: the demand for space on the roads is greater than what's available. Other factors, like weather and road work, can also contribute to slow-downs.
Three main theories
- #! Butterfly effect. This mathematical theory claims that small disturbances, like a driver changing lanes, can create a sequence of events that slows everyone down. Other theories build on this claim.
- #2 Invisible waves. This theory claims than an invisible wave of congestion is created when the initial issue forces several rows of cars to stop. Those stopped cars in turn cause others behind them to stop, creating a ripple effect.
The jam will not dissipate unless everyone is able to move at the same pace at once.
- #3 Tragedy of commons. It's an economic theory that claims most jams are caused by opportunity cost. Since a majority of roads are free to use, people use them as much as they like, whenever they like, which caused congestion.
A closer look
- A: Imagine this: On a typical. busy highway, with traffic traveling at 55 mph, a driver makes a sudden turn into another lane.
- B: This forces the cars directly behind him to tap on their brakes to let him in, slowing them down to 50 mph.
- C: Consequently, the drivers behind those going 50 mph are forced to slow down to 45 more in order to keep a safe distance.
- D: Drivers further back see all of the brake lights on and press their own brakes. Eventually, cars several rows back are forced to crawl (40 mph).
- E: The slowdown, called the "backward traveling wave", continues backward through traffic, even though the lane change may have happened several minutes prior.
- Traffic incidents, road work, weather events - 50%.
- Recurring heavy traffic - 50%.
- Ramp signaling. Traffic signals alert cars when they are allowed to merge with highway traffic, which prevents the highway from becoming saturated too quickly.
- Bus lanes. Buses, which stop frequently and sometimes unpredictably, would be allocated their own lanes as to not interface with free-flowing traffic.
- Reversible lanes. Certain stretches of a highway can be designated for traffic going in either direction, typically during rush hour.
America's top 10 most congested roads
- #1 The I-95 Corridor - Interstate 95 from New York City to Washington D.C.
- #2 Boston - Westbound Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston to I-84 in Sturbridge.
- #3 Chicago - Borman Expressway I-80/I-94, the Tri-State Tollway.
- #4 New York City - Throgs Neck Bridge and Whitestone Bridge.
- #5 San Francisco - Eastbound Interstate 80 to Sacramento and Tahoe.
- #6 Atlanta - Interstate 295 in both directions between I-75 and I-85.
- #7 Washington D.C. - Interstate 495 from Merrifield, VA, to Landover, MD.
- #8 Dallas - Interstate 35.
- #9 Detroit - Northbound US-23 and Northbound I-75 Merge.
- #10 Miami - The Palmetto Expressway near Miami International Airport.
CarInsuranse | Information provided by : http://www.carinsurance.org | Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org; http://www.sciencedaily.com; http://www.newscientist.com; http://www.amasci.com.