It's summer, and more Americans are on the road. Crowded roads. So here are a few tips you may never have learned or have forgotten.
And don't slow down to look at an accident on the side of the highway. What would you hope to see? Just move along.
Have you ever been in traffic that slowed to a crawl? You assume there must be a bad accident ahead - but sometimes when traffic finally gets moving again, there is no sign of trouble. What most likely happened is that drivers had to brake either to be safe or because they are bad drivers who sped and then braked and sped and then braked. This caused the driver behind to brake, and the person behind that driver to brake.
Soon you have a peristaltic action for miles down the highway as drivers touch their brakes. Even can do it, as Japanese scientists discovered when they asked drivers on a closed-loop track to maintain their speed. .
Sometimes traffic slows because two lanes narrow to one. calls for a . You may call it cutting in and cheating, but you have to get over that. The trick is, again, maintaining speed with less braking.
Drivers should use both lanes until traffic slows, then you do what they taught you in kindergarten: Be nice. Take turns. Instead of bunching up to prevent the jerk in the other lane from cutting in, you leave space so he can glide in. Then a car from your lane proceeds. Then you let another driver cut in. And so on. As you approach the final merging point, leave even more space. The nice people in Minnesota made an extra effort to teach motorists there how to do it.
So did Kansas, but with animation.
I know, it sounds counterintuitive. But if everyone cooperates, it works, say traffic engineers.
Now let's quickly deal with a few issues on city streets. Like parking.
Anyone who hated having to feed parking meters and carry a pile of coins is grateful that cities large and small have adopted parking apps like or . You park; you let the app that's linked to your credit card know you are there; and you go about your business.
The downside? As cities removed meters, they eliminated marked parking spaces. Cars are no longer evenly spaced. On any block it is easy to find half a car length of wasted space behind a parked car, and a similar half a car length in front of it. Or even more.
Granted, this can happen when a mammoth Ford F350 pulls out and a little Fiat 500 pulls in. But sometimes it's because you don't know how much space you need in front and in back of you. Here's the tip: It's not as much as you might think. Thanks to a by a British mathematician, we know it is about two and a half feet in front and the same in back for a typical sedan.
I won't bother to tell you how to parallel park. Eventually, automatic parallel parking will be standard on all new cars.
Finally, the pet peeve of a pedestrian, if you will indulge me. It's a right turn on red - after a stop. (And in New York City and some other locations, of course, it's illegal to turn at all on a red light.) When they have the crossing light, pedestrians have the right of way over a giant hunk of steel and glass. There is that few fatalities are caused by drivers who forget that second part, but still, be nice, even Minnesota nice.