A lot of us think we are experts when it comes to the cause of traffic jams. But Dr. Guy Walker really is.
Walker works for Heriot-Watt’s Institute for Infrastructure and Environment as Associate Professor in Human Factors. The ultimate goal of his research is to “find novel and innovative solutions to major traffic jams,” according to Phys.org. And Dr. Walker is leading the charge.
As to the cause of traffic jams, Dr. Walker’s findings may surprise you. He found that when it comes to lane closures, it is actually “overly polite drivers” that cause backups.
It works like this. As soon as people see that a lane closure is approaching, they immediately move into the open lane. This causes that lane to clog up prematurely and you effectively lose that adjacent lane. Those caught in that lane can’t find the space to get into the open lane because it has filled up too early.
In the words of Dr. Walker, getting over too early “leads to the loss of a further lane of capacity, that’s in addition to the ones already closed because of roadworks.”