08 August 2008

"I want to make you move because you're standing still"--Finger Eleven

Maybe you can solve a mystery for me.

Yesterday evening, it took me an extra half hour to get over the Woodrow Wilson bridge and it got me thinking.

I accept that I live far from work and there will be times my usual 40 minute commute will stretch toward infinity, like so many white women Sweatin' to the Oldies.

I understand that weather will paralyze people, that construction will completely confound people, that a truck stopped on the side of the road will be a tantalizing mystery whose depths must be plumbed.

People who are already bad drivers will get on their cells and become ridiculously worse drivers. In fact, I am always disappointed when I drive by a terrible driver and discover they are not on the phone. I do so want to be able to blame something besides their basic ineptitude.

But all this is the reality. What I don't understand is this phenomenon:

When the traffic finally clears ahead after a long back up where drivers have inched along for miles, why doesn't everybody resume normal speed?

I was going 10 miles per hour for the last 20 minutes so I guess I'll just keep doing that. La, la, la.

WHY?! At least drive the posted minimum speed limit!

I wind up swerving around these road blocks and wonder what they could possibly be thinking.

It's like people fall into a trance. I don't get it.


AbbotOfUnreason said...

I've read about an interesting accordion effect where traffic bunches up and then unbunches slowly. It's caused by different drivers' comfort at separation at different speeds -- wanting to be farther away from the car in front of you when you're going faster.

I'll bet it's the same kind of thing. Say people are comfortable with being within 10 feet of the car in front when they're driving 15 mph, but they want to be say 40 feet behind when going 55. They get it into their minds that they want to go 55, but the car in front is only 15 feet away, so their brains won't let them gradually speed up. They want to jump to 55, but they want to wait until the car in front of them is the distance that they would think is safe at 50, even though there's going to take some time to get to 50. It's just my theory.

Maybe that doesn't make any more sense. I wish I had a whiteboard.

Narm said...

My drive to work includes a traffic jam every morning - but the best part is that there is no cause - there is just a spot where people get confused and slow down for no reason and it backs up the entire highway for miles.

I wish I could at least blame a broken down truck!

rs27 said...

You haven't been in traffic unless you've been in LA traffic. The jams are usually caused by douches trying to text and drive.

Um ,not me though.

AbbotOfUnreason said...

rs27, seems to me you're never driving, you're always being driven, by strangers

Tina said...

there are benefits to living in the middle of freaken nowhere. We don't have traffic - ever. It almost makes up for the lack of a single decent grocery store in less than an hour'd drive time.

lacochran said...

Abbotofunreason: Well, I did ask. Thanks, and whiteboards rock!

Narm: "AAARG!" --C. Brown

rs27: Um, not me, either. Um, nope.

Tina: Not a single decent grocery? Oy.

zandria said...

Oh, there is just no use trying to attempt the craziness of traffic patterns. [Shakes head sadly...]