There are a lot of good reasons for entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, but one of the best is the dream of ending the commute. Americans spend an average of more than 40 hours a year sitting in traffic according to a Texas A&M annual urban congestion study. That’s an entire
Imagine what your business could have done with that extra week of workhours! It might just be possible to win much of that time back.
Traffic congestion happens for a number of reasons but one of the most common is the effect of traffic waves. Someone cuts into a lane to reach an off ramp or joins congested traffic from an on ramp, forcing the person behind to brake suddenly. It takes a second or so for the next driver to react so they have to brake harder still. The slower the reaction time and the closer the cars are bunched together, the harder the drivers have to brake until eventually a car stops. The car behind that one has to stop too but when the first car moves off, it takes a second for the second car to react, giving time for more cars to come to a halt.
As long as new cars are joining the blockage faster than cars are leaving it, the traffic jam will grow, moving down the road like a wave.
That’s why you can sometimes sit in traffic for minutes at a time for no apparent reason.
The solution is smart driving.
In 1998 William Beaty, a civil engineer with a Seattle commute, decided that instead of stopping and starting at traffic jams, he’d try to drive at a steady speed. If he saw a jam developing ahead, he slowed down so that by the time he reached it, the jam had already broken up. By not adding to the traffic jam and forcing the cars behind him to stop, he was actually giving time for the clots on the highway to dissolve.
It’s a technique that can be used to unblock jams that have already happened but it can also prevent jams from developing in the first place. Cars brake when drivers cut in too close to them. If you allow enough space for cars to change lanes safely in front of you, not only won’t you have to brake, but you prevent that driver from forcing someone else to brake as well. It’s a bit like operating a zipper: when the teeth slide easily in front of each other one at a time, the zipper works smoothly. When teeth have to be forced into a tight space, the zipper catches and everything stops.
Drive at a steady speed and leave enough space for cars to enter your lane safely ahead of you, and you’ll be able to cut your commute even before you’ve started your own business.
By Joel Comm
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