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:
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.
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.
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?