|There is little question you have seen it happen first-hand. You are down I-285 or GA 400 and traffic suddenly slows down to a crawl, then simply stops! A few minutes time passes, you start to move slowly and all of a sudden you are fling again! Now, the plot thickens. You don't see signs of an accident or any construction happening. So, just why did you stop a few minutes earlier? The fact of the matter is that various researchers have in fact been trying to ascertain why by using real-world experiments and mathematical calculations to figure this out. And they do in fact think that they have an answer, and some suggestions of possible ways to put these jams to a halt.
Phantom Traffic Jams And Why They Might Form
If on the highway there are enough cars, the flow of the traffic may face some sort of minor disruption and a self-reinforcing chain reaction may be caused. One car slightly applies their brakes and to avoid hitting it, the car behind brakes a bit more and this continues until it results in slowed and stopped traffic. This kind of driving pattern could even lead to a car accident to which you case you are now scrambling to find an Atlanta car injury attorney.
Benjamin Seibold of Temple University is a mathematician who has studied this phenomenon in conjunction with some colleagues and he says, "These waves of traffic are caused from the flow being interrupted by small perturbations like a driver braking after an inattentive moment, or perhaps a bump in the road".
One Car Slightly Breaks And Those Following It Each Brake A Bit More
The wave itself does not disappear, even when cars leave the traffic. Against the direction of the traffic, it drifts backward gradually. Siebold tells us that "it is typically between 90 to 1010 meters long, and the beginning happens with the vehicles running into a density increase at the start, and the velocity dropping. After that, they begin to slowly accelerate once again".
So, For These Traffic Jams, Just Who Is To Blame?
It seems reasonable, in one sense, to place the blame on individual drivers for these phantom traffic jams. Studies of the different models has shown that the jams occur at times when people are driving as quickly as they can, then to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of them they brake and this then triggers a chain reaction.
Siebold again points out that " If higher traffic densities ahead are anticipated by people, and if they leave more room in front of them by taking their foot earlier off the gas, getting this done before they must brake, they can assist the traffic jams to keep from happening".
An MIT computer scientist named Berthold Horn, who has researched the same topic, suggests that you try to maintain position halfway between the car behind you and the one in front of you. Doing so will assist in avoiding the need for sudden braking!
This sort of behavioral change, on the other hand, will not completely eliminate phantom traffic jams - but it will help to make them less likely to form. Specifically, for traffic waves to develop, it requires the road to have a higher density of cars on it. But if on the road there are enough cars, phantom traffic jams will form, even if to the very best of their abilities people anticipate approaching traffic situations.
"It is commonly thought that these situations are caused by individual drivers", says Siebold. "The models do show, however, that even if by the exact same rules all the drivers drive, these waves can and will still occur"!
The bottom line here is that when you have enough drivers on the highway, these jams are going to emerge. Probably, the only way to eliminate them from occurring may involve passing the wheel on to something other than a driver who is human!
Phantom Traffic Jams Solution
In truth, in the short term, to cut down on these traffic jams there are some things engineers can do. When a road is smoother and straighter, drivers will not be doing as much braking, so jams become less likely to form. It is also vital to continue to maintain the roads as best they possibly can be. Siebold offers an even more viable idea. He suggests employing variable speed limits on the roads. Speed limits could be decreased, using LED signs, in that area that is leading up to a phantom jam, which would have cars gradually slowing down instead of doing so all at once. This could, in some cases, help to break up the wave!