Traffic Jamming: Causes and Impact

NeW Bureau

What causes a traffic jam? The word “congestion” is frequently employed in the road traffic context, both by technicians and by the public at large. It is usually understood as a situation in which there are a large number of vehicles circulating, all of which are moving forward in a slow and irregular manner. Most of us don’t know much about the causes of traffic and congestion, yet it is one of the factors that play a massive part in our daily lives. The reasons causing traffic congestion is also not common, it may differ from one road to another, there may be common causes for these, but every road has specific reasons for congestion. Sometimes the answer is obvious: construction, car crashes or regular rush hour. Roughly half of the congestion happens due to the lack of enough road capacity to accommodate a high number of vehicles. The other half of traffic jams are usually temporary that is mainly caused by bad weather, work zones and accidents. The roadways leading in and out of most major towns and cities can become gridlocked due to an accident, road construction or simply a high number of cars on the road.
The all-too-common cause of traffic is humans. One of the key arguments of traffic is that the individual driver cannot often understand, or see, the traffic system as a whole. From distracted or drunk driving to drowsy driving or emotional driving, there are many instances where humans cause collisions, which create traffic. We might think that driving as fast as possible is the most efficient way to move cars down a road, however overtaking tendency of drivers create pro-longed traffic congestions. A newer form of traffic that is affecting cities more and more every day is actually the result of distracted driving. When drivers are distracted by their smart phones or other handheld devices, they might not drive at a constant speed, thus unintentionally increasing traffic density. There are ignorant motorists disregarding traffic laws and selfish driving habits. Many drivers try to cut a few seconds off their journey time by forcing their way into intersections and blocking the passage of other motorists, thus causing economic losses to others which are much greater than their own gains. Road rage is a senseless reaction to traffic that is common in congested traffic areas. Drivers who become impatient are more likely to drive aggressively or dangerously and lead to high potential for traffic accidents, therefore distracted driving and speeding need to be controlled.
The most common form of traffic congestion occur when there are more vehicles than the roadway can support. The traffic demand is greater than the capacity of the roadway. This form of congestion is frequent, and makes up for about half of all traffic on a daily basis. Another factor that can cause traffic congestion is the case of bad town planning as it results in limited alternative routes that could have eased congestion in the city center and lack of regular, wide ranging, affordable and reliable public transportation because one fully loaded bus could remove as many as sixty cars from the road. Congestions often happen when a city’s population grows faster than its infrastructure. With the evolution of society, economy and technology, the household characteristics as well as the transportation system gets affected. Due to the increase in population and the attraction of human activities into urban region which in turn leads to the growth of vehicle ownership and use, there is demand for road space which has led to increase in the number of public transport operation. A person driving a Rolls Royce or BMW will be considered as superior to one driving a lower range car, while a person who arrives at the office by car rather than a bus is seen as someone who has moved up in the social ladder. The prestige attached to being a car owner is a strong factor in the volume of traffic. The change in transport system causes a change in transport behaviour and locational pattern of the system. The change in household characteristics, transport behaviour, locational pattern, and other growth effects result in the growth of traffic. Therefore the change or improvement in road capacity is the result of change in the transportation system.
Another category that could also arguably be human-caused is infrastructure. For example, when poor quality construction materials are used to build roads, it could lead to potholes, which can slow cars down and create traffic. From potholes that cause slowdowns to bottlenecks in areas that out-populate the roadways, infrastructure is the hidden troll that amplifies traffic problems in many urban and suburban areas. Road work might shut down one or more lanes, requiring drivers to shift over into open but crowded lanes. While it may seem frustrating to get stuck in a construction zone, interstate maintenance actually helps relieve traffic congestions in the long run. Types of construction that improve traffic flow might include adding more lanes to the highway, creating one-way streets and putting up traffic lights. If sitting in traffic because of construction, one can be optimistic in knowing that these new developments will actually decrease our travel time in the near future.
One of the most harmful effects of traffic congestion is its impact on the environment. Despite the growing number of hybrid vehicles on the road, cars stopped in traffic still produce a large volume of harmful carbon emissions. These emissions create air pollution and are related to global warming. Besides contributing to global warming, these emissions can cause more short-term and localized problems, such as air pollution and noise pollution and thus worsens the overall environmental condition.
Due to traffic jams, a substantial portion of working hours have to be left on streets which indirectly put adverse impact on the economy. The stopping and starting in traffic jams burns fuel at a higher rate than the smooth rate of travel on the open highway. This increase in fuel consumption costs commuters additional money for fuel. ‘Wear and tear’ on mechanical components of vehicles such as the clutch and brakes is also considerably increased under stop-start driving conditions, hence increasing the vehicle maintenance costs. Time spent stuck on public transport and in traffic jams is time lost, both to work and leisure. Congestion comes with a social cost and reduces quality of life for everyone. However people tend to shrug their shoulders and appear to accept that this is part and parcel of the travails of urban living

Traffic demand may vary significantly depending on the season of the year, the day of the week and even time of the day. Congestion is too serious and far-reaching a problem to believe that it can be relieved through self-regulating or voluntary measures. So understanding the causes of traffic jams, we need to be more inclined to help prevent them in taking action by looking up the traffic laws that our governments want to pass, using carpools or public transportation to lessen the number of vehicles on the road, and pledging not to engage in distracted driving. If we carry out permanently in proper road use, it can help to reduce congestion by teaching the population not to drive in an undisciplined manner or fail to show due respect to other road users, whether pedestrians or other drivers.

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