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Want Less Traffic on the Streets? Be a Team Player.

According to Craig Davis, a physicist at the University of Michigan, if everyone would simply slow down and actually obey traffic signs, traffic would essentially be nonexistent on our roads.

On the streets of the US, people drive aggressively, they drive defensively, and they drive according to their own agenda. Davis calls it “the science of complexity.” When you have a large group (which, essentially is what traffic is: a collective of people) the group dynamic is affected when each person in the group is trying to maximize their own benefit.

Look at it this way, a winning basketball team has won all those games, because of a lot of factors. One main driving factor is just that—they’re a team. They work together cohesively to maximize the benefit of the team, not just themselves. If basketball players thought their sport was based solely on their individual effort and they were only looking out for themselves, we’d have a bunch of hedonistic athletes and no winning basketball teams. As the old adage goes, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

Good drivers are a part of the team. You too, can be a part of the team. How? For starters, put down the damn phone when you’re driving. A lot of drivers don’t realize when they step behind the wheel of a car they’re wielding a 3,000 pound machine. This machine can become a potential weapon, once its wheels start to move. Bear in mind that a driver typically takes about 3/4 of a second to apply pressure on their break peddle. When you pick up your phone, that reaction time to apply the brakes goes up considerably. Why?

When it comes to driving, humans suck at multitasking. Therefore, we are human and shouldn’t attempt to focus on driving while looking at our phone—one or the other. Our brain can’t focus on both. I can’t tell you how many times I have been sitting in traffic and observe people on their phones. Texting, talking, hell, they could be watching entertaining YouTube videos for all I know. Traffic is boring. A phone is a nice distraction. I get it. Though, by being on your phone, you’re actually making traffic worse.

Typically, traffic occurs for very stupid reasons. Let’s say car A merged onto the highway at a low accelerating speed, because they were texting a friend and weren’t really paying attention to the road.  As a result, another impatient driver (car B) cuts them off, causing car A to brake to avoid hitting car B. I see this time and time again. The action of braking causes a domino effect, car A braking to avoid hitting car B causes the person behind them (car C) to brake. The person behind car C will brake to avoid hitting car C and so on.

If instead, every driver out there stayed off the phone, merged onto highway traffic the right way, traffic would cut down considerably. Paying attention to traffic signs, keeping a fast accelerating speed on the freeway and avoiding the use of your brakes is a great way to be a team player.