Downtown Los Angeles Traffic
Creative Commons License photo credit: fredcamino

I saw this “Shockwave Traffic Jam” article and then the video on Jason’s site the other day. It got me thinking about other people’s driving habits and how I could relate to them. I’ve been driving for more than 23 years, in all sorts of traffic, weather, and roads; even other countries. I have been in all sorts of traffic jams on major highways, and I’ve observed some of the causes. There are a few fundamental driving habits that ought to be practiced by all drivers. I’ll share some of mine:

Be Alert!

Fatigue or sleepiness is a major cause of accidents nowadays, just as bad as drunk driving. If I’m not awake, no other advice matters. I commute 50 miles a day (used to commute 150 miles a day) and I’ve had my fair share of nodding off while driving. I would drift to another lane and drive erratically. People will slow down to avoid a sleepy driver. It’s worse when you crash into something. Traffic will back up. It’s dangerous and scary. So before driving, take a good night rest. While driving, pull over to the side and take a power nap (15-30 minutes).

Stop Abusing the Brakes!

This is, by far, my biggest pet peeve about people’s driving habit. I can understand if brakes are used liberally on smaller streets, or busy streets. But to do this on a free-flowing freeway where everyone goes 60+ MPH? I’ve frequently observe traffic jams start at the moment some cars’ brake lights appear ahead. Most drivers react poorly to brake lights. Compounded by human error (in judging distance), tailgating, and speeding; the traffic jam shockwave occurs.  What’s the solution? Slow down by down shifting the gears, or just let go of the accelerator early. Don’t “Brake Check“. Keep ample distance with the car ahead. When traffic is not in a stand still, it doesn’t make sense to apply brakes when everyone can simply let go of the gas pedal.

Get out of the way, as soon and as much as I can!

Lee Iacocca was once in a Chrysler commercial touting the company’s motto: “In this business, you either: lead, follow, or get out of the way!” I thought it was a brilliant ad. Getting out of the way is the safest form of driving out there. Get out of the way by leaving the fast lane for faster cars. Get out of the way when you see a crazy driver tailgating you. Get out of the way by choosing a less congested road. Get out of the way by driving less.

Have Patience.

I’ve been in a hurry before. I’ve had arguments in the car. I’ve cranked up techno or heavy metal music before. These are major contributors to a loss of patience. When patience is lost, so is driving common sense. Drive slower. Never get angry. Stay calm. Listen to soothing music. Always assume other people drive badly and excuse them for being mean or incompetent.

Hang up the cell phone!

The cell phone is a nasty distraction while driving. I know because I’ve done it several times before and I couldn’t give my full attention to the road. I’ve become an unsafe driver when I don’t watch the traffic carefully. I’ve seen people drive while perching a cell phone in one ear, slouching on their seat, and leaning their heads against the window! I don’t know if it’s an attempt to be cool; I think it’s just stupid. Now I use a speaker phone to receive just incoming calls and make them very brief. If it’s important, I will get out of the way by pulling over to the side of road. I’m glad there’s going to be a law to enforce hands-free cell phone on the road.

Once everyone learns this and apply it to their commute, driving will become more smooth and comfortable; and hopefully reduce traffic jams! I’m sure there are other recommendations out there. How you stay sane during your commute?

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11 Responses to “Driving Delays and Distractions”

  1. Periapex says:

    And what about text messaging while driving…It’s pretty dangerous, but I do have to admit to doing it myself. Shame on me.

    Periapex’s last blog post..Aren’t We Supposed to Be Working?

  2. rudyamid says:

    Yeah? That is pretty dangerous. But then again, I know someone who watches DVDs while driving. I thought that’s pretty dangerous. The things we do to entertain ourselves on the road…

  3. richard says:

    with my Blackberry having GPS, i’m on it all the time checking out traffic jams.. i think it will be a matter of time before i hit someone.. luckily, ppl in the bay area drive decent and aren’t very aggressive. That is compared to Toronto… And you know all about that. I’m pretty mild mannered but some guy stole my spot in the eaton center after i was waiting for almost 15 min and i lost it.. yelled at him.

  4. Periapex says:

    Richard: I wonder why people don’t worry about their cars being vandalized when they steal spots from people like that? I know I would…

    Periapex’s last blog post..Aren’t We Supposed to Be Working?

  5. rudyamid says:

    @Richard:
    I get nervous when I use my GPS while driving and I have one of those portable ones that I place on the dash (not the in-dash version). Most people in LA and OC are aggressive drivers because they try to get out of a traffic jam too often. so they weave in and out of traffic and tailgate a lot.

    Speaking of aggressiveness, yesterday I just witnessed a big bald guy in a white truck got off his truck and tried to start a fight with a brown SUV driver behind him. The brown SUV backed up and ran away. Then I saw him go back to his white truck and followed him. I didn’t follow them to watch the fight, but I could imagine how scared the other guy would be.

    It just goes to show a little courtesy and patience, this kind of conflict can be avoided.

  6. I’m usually grooming porcupines while I drive – I’m a multitasker.

    Jason – GorillaSushi’s last blog post..Evil Dreadlock Movie Pie

  7. rudyamid says:

    @Jason:
    Oh, don’t get me started with porcupines and pricks.

  8. Zhu says:

    I found most Canadians drive pretty well… compared to French! They prob. have all of your pet peeves… There are a lot of accidents there too.

    Zhu’s last blog post..St Malo — A Walled City

  9. rudyamid says:

    Hi Zhu. The driving tests in Toronto and in Northern California are pretty comprehensive, that’s why they generally drive better.

    As for the French, they drive like this through the streets of Paris. ;-)

  10. Adalbertdd says:

    favorited this one, man

  11. [...] written a post about driving delays caused by people pressing the brakes too much.  I described the problem with freeways coming to a [...]

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