Friday, November 28, 2008

Traffic Jams for no reason at all

If you've driven through a major traffic area like I25 south of Denver, you know what it's like to get in a jam. You come upon red taillights and suddenly you're stopping and going in little spurts that can take over an hour if you're unlucky.

Sometimes you find out why. You see a crash scene and a bunch of emergency workers. Or a lane that's closed for construction.

At other times, though, you have no idea what caused the backup. I had long had a theory that there really was no major cause: all it takes is for one person to get to close to the vehicle in front of her and she taps her brakes. Then my wife says, "hey, they're stopping up there." So I slow down a little, as does the guy behind me. Apparently that's all it takes.

When I saw this article and video I found it fascinating. Watch the video clip. All they do is have a bunch of cars driving around a big racetrack circle. Doesn't take long before someone hits their brakes and send a wave back behind them. When it's on a circle it's even cooler, as the wave comes back to get you again.

Can you tell I did some commuting this Thanksgiving break?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And sometimes you are slowed down by the memory of an event. Cop pulls someone over. Everyone does the obligatory slow down thing, some slower than others, causing that stuttering back ripple. And the cop leaves. And that back ripple, in moderately heavy traffic, can take an hour or more to work itself out.