How do you drive in traffic?

  • Thread starter Exorcet
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7,332
Exorcet
OE Exorcet
No one likes traffic, but how you drive while surrounded by it can influence your experience and the experience of other drivers around you. The situation I'm envisioning mostly occurs on highways, so there are no stoplights or stop signs. Traffic is just very slow and often varies in speed over time. I try to make things as smooth and efficient as possible by estimating the average speed of traffic and sticking to that speed until the flow of traffic picks up again. With this technique I've managed to stay off my brakes in stop and go traffic for miles at a time, and personally I find it less annoying that continually accelerating just to slam on the brakes a few seconds later. It also helps with merging traffic as gaps more readily available with moving traffic.

However, my attempt at making things easy sometimes brings about its own problem, which is namely the apparent impatience of over drivers. Since I'm maintaining the average speed of traffic, sometimes I will be slower than cars in front of me, which naturally opens up a gap in traffic. Some people just can't seem to stand driving at a constant 5-10 mph and will try to pass me as soon as possible just so they can continue to needlessly wear down their brakes in front of me. It becomes a real problem for me if everyone starts doing this because then I'm just letting more stop and go traffic get in front of me and impede me.

I'm curious to know if anyone else tries to maintain a constant speed this because the vast majority of cars I see on the road in heavy traffic just follow each other almost bumper to bumper. While it's inefficient I'm sure some people do this to prevent impatient people from passing, which I find understandable. A few drivers will leave a gap ahead of them, but I don't really get the sense that they're aiming for a particular speed to avoid using their brakes. Also if there are other ways to efficiently drive in traffic that doesn't trigger other drives to be overly aggressive I'd like to know.
 
2,582
United States
Knoxville, Tennessee
I try to maintain a constant speed as well, since it reduces the amount of shifting I have to do lol
 
10,322
Sweden
Sweden
eran0004
A constant speed is better for fuel consumption as well. The roads I’m driving on are nowhere near as busy, but there are inpatient drivers still. Often they sit at my bumper for a long time and only decide to overtake when they’re sure it’s absolutely unsafe to do so.
 

Danoff

Who is John Galt?
Premium
31,754
United States
Mile High City
If I'm not in a hurry, I try to find a long-haul truck and just hang out behind them. The trucks try to maintain constant speed and stay off of the brakes. Nobody tries to get between you and the truck because they don't want to stay behind it, and if they do, they do it briefly.
 

Doog

Thread killer
Premium
6,081
United States
Phoenix, AZ
I try to avoid traffic as much as I can, but when there's no other option, I drive the same way as everyone else in this thread. Most times after enough people go around me, I end up with someone behind me who sees what I'm doing and starts to do the same. Sometimes the monotony of traffic makes me turn my brain off and then I catch myself driving like an NPC, then I get embarrassed and dramatically increase my following distance.
 
7,332
Exorcet
OE Exorcet
only decide to overtake when they’re sure it’s absolutely unsafe to do so.
I've seen a lot of crazy things on dashcam videos. Fortunately the very worst drivers seem to be a rarity. Something that definitely annoys me is changing lanes without a signal, which happens pretty often. Thankfully I've learned to anticipate when people are going to do this to a degree.
Nobody tries to get between you and the truck because they don't want to stay behind it, and if they do, they do it briefly.
That is true, trucks tend to get a pass since people expect them to go slow and they don't want to take their chances messing with something ten times their weight. I stay away from them myself in most cases just because I like being able to see down the road, but I guess I don't really need to when traffic is heavy.
Sometimes the monotony of traffic makes me turn my brain off and then I catch myself driving like an NPC, then I get embarrassed and dramatically increase my following distance.
I've had that as well. It's another thing that maintaining speed helps combat by giving your mind something to do
 

Wolfe

Physics Critic
Premium
13,549
United States
Wisconsin
I call this the yo-yo effect. It happens even out in the boonies with a handful of cars, or just you and this car, if there is no opportunity to pass and someone is not paying attention to maintaining a steady speed. The principle of increasing distance and modifying your speed to soak up the difference is the same. I use a similar strategy with anticipating traffic light changes, gaps in a roundabout, or another driver's stake in right-of-way at a four-way stop (where slowing early and stopping late can mean avoiding the delay of the other driver mucking it up).

I've noticed drivers sometimes seem to hang behind me after I begin trying to counteract the yo-yo effect in one form or another, so I think there are people out there who appreciate it. Once I can find an opportunity, I waste no time passing drivers who are yo-yoing below the speed limit, no matter how much they're speeding at the peaks of their dysfunctional wave pattern.

A full wall of traffic is something else. There is nowhere to go. You become part of a macrophysical fluid at that point. Best to just flow as easily as you can...or bail for an alternative route that in all likelihood may take longer than sitting in traffic, but at least you seized your destiny with your own hands because that's what really mattered to your psyche.
 
10,086
United States
Marin County
In stop in go traffic in my manual car I try to just maintain some minimum speed and flex my distance to the car in front. Doesn't always work, but it is an improvement anyways.

In the city I'm usually flying around traffic on my bike. :lol:
 

Joey D

Premium
45,515
United States
Boyne Falls, MI
GTP_Joey
GTP Joey
I miss my Volvo when it comes to traffic because I just set the Pilot Assist and let it do the stop-and-go for me. All I had to do was hold onto the steering wheel and keep my eye on everything around me. It worked great. Technically my 4Runner has something similar but I haven't been able to get it to work like the Volvo's system.

Thankfully, where I live now, traffic occasionally consists of a tractor or a snowcat and that's it.
 

wfooshee

Rather ride my FJR
Premium
4,892
When it's stop-and-go, I give some room to the car in front so I can at least get the clutch fully out in 1st gear as I creep forward, rather than slipping the clutch for however miles the jam happens to be. In most cases, people stay in their lane and move along peacefully, but there's always someone who thinks, "That lane is going faster than mine!" and the try to shove their way over. Just in time for that lane to stop and the one they were in moves now... :-)

If it's heavy but moving traffic, I'm looking well ahead, and checking my rear and sides constantly. Some impatient jerk is going to want to cross 2 or 3 lanes at a time, or two drivers are going to move to the center lane from opposite sides simultaneously. I'm not one to zip through traffic just so i can be in front, but when it's going 10 or 15 under what I want to do, I scan ahead for breaks and I'm usually able to cleanly use the gaps.

Those of you who have not driven in the US would be absolutely appalled at the total lack of lane discipline here! The left lane is viewed as "the fast lane" and everyone wants to be in it, thinking they won't be impeded, even if all they want is not even the speed limit. There is a very large desire to be "in front," even if there's no desire to be faster, simply because they feel less impeded by being in front. I will not even try to describe how many times someone zips past me about 8 to 10 mph quicker than me, than slows down once they're ahead of me.

Basically, traffic means highest defensive situational awareness. Scanning ahead, living in the mirrors, moving with traffic rather than trying to fight it. It's absolutely true that you can make better progress with simple, gentle moves instead of flooring it into every gap only to catch up to the next rolling roadblock.
 
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44,180
Australia
Australia
For street traffic: Depending how far ahead I can see, I’m usually making a move half the distance of known trouble spots. I know someone will make a last second decision, when they finally do enter that red zone of being stuck behind a late signaller or person that enters into traffic slowly. I may be held up a bit, but I choose not to be that driver that knew they should have moved over sooner.

On the freeway/parkway/highway: I do the speed limit. It’s annoying when going from a 60km/h zone and entering an 80km/h zone and drivers stay at 60km/h. :banghead: Bad enough in town speeds are from 30km/h to 60km/h :mad:, now is our chance to, legally, “speed”! However, when going from 80km/h to 60km/h, these same people will speed along at 70km/h, in the 60km/h zone.:rolleyes:
There are stretches where the speeds rise to 100km/h and some are afraid their car will blow up. You’re driving a Porsche Macan! ACCELERATE!!!

I’m never in a rush, but goodness gracious, help keep a good flow of traffic.
 
7,332
Exorcet
OE Exorcet
There is a very large desire to be "in front," even if there's no desire to be faster, simply because they feel less impeded by being in front. I will not even try to describe how many times someone zips past me about 8 to 10 mph quicker than me, than slows down once they're ahead of me.
This confounded me when I started driving. I never really noticed it until I was behind the wheel. On highways it's one thing, but on streets it becomes absolutely ridiculous. I've seen it when someone is pulling out of a side road or parking lot exit ahead of me a few times. Since they're accelerating from a stop I might try to move over to give them space and also to pass them in case they end up slower than me, which is expected. I'll check my mirrors to make sure I'm clear to move back into my original lane, but I don't see any car. Accelerate a little to make sure I'm clear, still no car behind me. Then I look to the side and whoever just pulled out of the driveway is flooring it to make sure I'm not ahead of them. Just why? It's happened multiple times, at least now I know it's something I can expect from people. Early on it was never something I'd anticipate.
 

MedigoFlame

Premium
6,079
United States
Maine
MedigoFlameX
Those of you who have not driven in the US would be absolutely appalled at the total lack of lane discipline here! The left lane is viewed as "the fast lane" and everyone wants to be in it, thinking they won't be impeded, even if all they want is not even the speed limit. There is a very large desire to be "in front," even if there's no desire to be faster, simply because they feel less impeded by being in front. I will not even try to describe how many times someone zips past me about 8 to 10 mph quicker than me, than slows down once they're ahead of me.

Basically, traffic means highest defensive situational awareness. Scanning ahead, living in the mirrors, moving with traffic rather than trying to fight it. It's absolutely true that you can make better progress with simple, gentle moves instead of flooring it into every gap only to catch up to the next rolling roadblock.
The desire to be "in front" is what drives me absolutely nuts for exactly what you described. Even with adaptive cruise control, it is just infuriating trying to stay a constant steady speed especially on the section of highway I commute on. It's two lanes, but it's near impossible to keep a consistent speed during heavy rush hour commuting. Here in New England it seems, people are willing to do 15-30MPH over the limit just to pass you and then drop to 5-15mph UNDER the speed limit after they get ahead. The constant game of leap frog on long drives for me is aggravating when I simply want to use cruise control on the long dead stretches of road on one of my work trips.

For how I drive in traffic, I do what I can to be defensive, but even then people will take advantage of any gap they can. I try to leave enough space for emergency braking but just about any New England driver (I'm sure it's more than just this region) will see that as an opportunity to sneak in. (Whilst riding the brakes to squeeze in) It used to be just the typical Massachusetts drivers we'd consider like that, but it's spread to just about everyone.... What I hate the most about trying to drive defensively is that you have to be aggressive in some aspects, one of my biggest pet peeves is people who end up sitting side by side with you on a multi-lane road (probably because they can't measure their own speed and need a point of reference), effectively taking away your escape route should any surprises happen. I absolutely hate it when people will just match your speed or the car in front of you on a multi-lane road.

This confounded me when I started driving. I never really noticed it until I was behind the wheel. On highways it's one thing, but on streets it becomes absolutely ridiculous. I've seen it when someone is pulling out of a side road or parking lot exit ahead of me a few times. Since they're accelerating from a stop I might try to move over to give them space and also to pass them in case they end up slower than me, which is expected. I'll check my mirrors to make sure I'm clear to move back into my original lane, but I don't see any car. Accelerate a little to make sure I'm clear, still no car behind me. Then I look to the side and whoever just pulled out of the driveway is flooring it to make sure I'm not ahead of them. Just why? It's happened multiple times, at least now I know it's something I can expect from people. Early on it was never something I'd anticipate.

On local roads it is indeed ridiculous how much people will race you to get to their turn, no matter how unnecessary it is. What's worse locally where I live is the constant road works expanding these small once single lane backroads to get more and more merging lanes. It just encourages these impatient, yet inconsistent drivers even more. They race to get past you on a local road so they could make their turn (that they take too slowly most of the time). It feels like everyone makes driving out to be a rat race where being in front means they're "winning" in life.


I feel like I'm rambling a bit, but how crap traffic has gotten lately has killed my joy of driving in real life. I honestly question myself why I bother to own a car that I care about when no one else cares about theirs or others around them. I swear the selfishness of people has only gotten worse with time.