Actually, I know what holds up the traffic, in two words.

To be serious, though, there is a mathematical theory behind the way there seems to be a traffic jam, but with nothing at the front of it. It involves pulses and such things, and a brief explanation follows.

It all starts when a car suddenly brakes in the middle of the road. The car behind it also brakes, and the car behind that etc. Assuming there are no collisions, the first car moves away. The second car moves away after the short interval that it takes for the driver to notice. The third car moves away after a similar interval, but the short intervals are starting to collect up now. This means that by the time the sixth or seventh car moves off, the first car is already a few miles away. After a few hundred cars have passed through this pulse, there are serious tailbacks, and nobody knows why, not even the driver who started it all off, who now is probably at their destination, oblivious to the chaos they have caused in the simple act of depressing the brake pedal.

Interesting theories, my asphalt acquaintances, but I think there is a better answer. How can I say it in five words and stay true to the node title? Hmmm.

Not knowing how to merge.

There. Nothing drives me crazier while out in traffic than to get to an intersection with a merging lane and be behind some idiot (and, ladies, I hate to say it, but most of the drivers I see doing this have a front bottom) who sits there while an entire lane, going on forever and ever, lies before her unused.

A couple of times, I've actually gotten out of my car, gone up to the window, and discussed this with the driver. Well, there really wasn't much discussion, 'cause when they see me coming at them, they suddenly discover that there's a lane in which they can escape.

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