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Old 22-05-2007, 04:40 PM
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Default Joe's Guide to Merging and Other Freeway Problems

Hi everyone,

Ok so I got bored at work when the server was down, so I decided to turn my pet traffic hates into a useable document.

Note: This is a work in progress and I'm hoping to have it up as a website shortly. Bumper stickers will follow

FEEL FREE TO ADD TO IT, EDIT IT OR SUGGEST ANY CHANGES THAT CAN I CAN MAKE!!!

Another note: What you are about to read is off the top off my head, and in no way did I use Google. Its 100% my opinion. I have further resources which I will be using to add to it, and they will be referenced accordingly, but as it is, its top of my head 1st draft!


JOE'S GUIDE TO MERGING AND OTHER FREEWAY PROBLEMS.


Okay, so we've all come to the conclusion that many Perth drivers cannot drive proficiently, and in particular, do not how to negotiate our freeways correctly. This means that the problems of our overcrowded roadways are exacerbated by issues such as tailgating, right lane hogging, and most frustrating of all, a lack of ability to merge.

To put it simply, when Perth drivers get their licenses, they become proficient in such skills as finding an address, how to set the correct seat height, and how to use the headlights. What they arent taught, are basic freeway courtesy and traffic management techniques. Yes, traffic management. I believe that traffic management is 90% road user, and 10% road designer/builder. Put simply, even a poorly designed road should be free flowing, if the user of the road has even a small amount of common sense.

I dont claim to be an expert, but my years of constant freeway driving, have meant that I've seen it all. In the hours and hours I've spent in traffic, I've constantly wondered how we can prevent traffic issues. From this, I've come up with a few solutions.

MERGING

The main problem you may have noticed on our roads, specifically our freeways, is that of merging. Bad merging causes frustration and left lane traffic jams. A poorly designed freeway with numerous merging zones, including on-ramps merging from two to one lane, then into another freeway lane, as well as two or three merges in the space of a kilometre, means that traffic is at a stand still every morning and afternoon. Its very easy to blame the people who designed the road, but as mentioned earlier, it also comes down to the common sense of the road user, and even a poorly designed road can be negotiated successfully.

Merging Problem Number 1 - No distance between vehicles.

When Perth drivers attempt to merge in amongst other vehicles on the freeway, either from an on-ramp, or from two lanes becoming one lane, its normally a pointless task. Put simply, no one allows enough room for other vehicles to merge in between them. This means that when two lanes merge into one, there is normally two or three vehicles right next to each other that have no room to go, and they all have no choice but to hit the brakes until they can work out what to do.

The rest of the vehicles behind them also have to brake, and this creates a huge bottleneck which can cause a chain reaction of vehicles all hitting the brakes. Of course, the extent of this chain reaction depends on the density of the traffic, but its not uncommon to see a 500m long line of vehicles all braking because of two vehicles that cant merge.

The way to solve this, is to keep a good distance between vehicles. At any given speed, you should be approximately two to three seconds from the vehicle in front of you. To determine this, start counting when the vehicle in front of you passes a landmark. You should pass this landmark two to three seconds later. Dont get too precious with the exact timing and distance, just use your common sense along with this rule, to keep a good gap between you and the car in front.

With this distance between vehicles, comes easy merging. I liken it to a zipper. If you look at an open zipper, you'll see that the teeth, in the two "lanes", merge into one as you pull the zipper up. They can only do this, because they slot in between each other perfectly. If there was no distance between the teeth i.e. two teeth were right next to each other, the zipper would jam, just like our roads do when people dont keep their distance, and two vehicles try to come into one lane at the same time next to each other. It really is as simple as that!


Merging Problem Number 2 - Schumacher syndrome.

Okay so now you've started keeping your distance between vehicles, and you've noticed how much easier it is to merge. The next problem you might encounter is the Michael Schumachers of our roads. These Michael Schumachers can be seen driving any vehicle, but I've noticed that a large number of them tend to drive large 4WDs.

So, you are driving along an on-ramp, and it merges with the left freeway lane, or you are driving down the freeway in a lane which is about to merge with another freeway lane. You've got your 2 seconds distance between the vehicle in front, and all is going well. As the lanes start to merge into one, you notice something in your right hand rear view mirror. A black BMW X5/Landcruiser/Patrol/Hummer H2 starts looming upon you, and grows larger and larger in your mirror. Before you can even blink, the vehicle is right next to you...yes, NEXT TO YOU in a single lane where only one car is supposed to be!

As the lane gets narrower and narrower, you have no choice but to hit your brakes, and let Schumacher win their "race". In the midst of your anger, you notice that the same 4WD does the same thing to two or three vehicles in front of you, and they all have to brake also. This Schumacher has won their own race, but pissed off a lot of people in the process. They obviously believe that by cutting off people who are attempting to merge correctly, they can win the race and reach their destination 5 seconds quicker. The fact is, you'll probably notice that 1-2km down the freeway, you'll actually be passing Schumacher in the middle lane, because they are stuck tailgating behind a truck in the left lane.

There is something you can do about this. When you are merging and two lanes becomes one, move as quickly as you can towards the centre of the newly created single lane, rather than sitting on the left of the newly created lane. In this way, any Schumachers are "blocked", and will become further blocked behind you as the lane gets narrower. Blocking is such a negative word though, so I like to say that you are using your god-given right to travel in the dead centre of the lane, which happens to mean that the space available to any Schumacher's, is greatly reduced and they cant pass you. Its not a problem for all the other road users, who (theoretically) are further behind you, and don't actually care which part of the lane you travel in, because the last thing on their mind is trying to beat you in the Freeway Grand Prix.

Also, if you are a Schumacher, please stop doing it. You're not winning anything, apart from a lot of enemies, and one day I might slash your tyres.


Merging Problem Number 3 - Who's who on the freeway?

When it comes to merging, who is responsible for facilitating a smooth merge? Those already on the freeway probably think that its not their problem and that the drivers merging onto the freeway should be taking extra care to ensure a smooth process. Those merging onto the freeway probably think that its up to the drivers already on the freeway to allow them to come into their lane once it merges. In reality, its actually the responsibility of those in both the lanes which are coming together, to ensure a smooth merge for all road users.

Its very simple. If you're an existing freeway user, you should keep your distance between the vehicle in front, and maintain your speed. Don't slow down for anyone merging unless you really have to i.e the person is travelling way too slowly and you will hit them if you don't slow down. In most circumstances, your space buffer should give them enough room to come onto the freeway without you having to slow down and disrupt the flow of traffic.

If you're merging onto the freeway via an on-ramp: As soon as the speed limit sign changes from on-ramp speed to freeway speed, accelerate smoothly and quickly to slot yourself into the space between vehicles on the freeway, at their speed. Regulate your speed by coming off the throttle to drop behind a car, or accelerate to get in front of a car, and only brake if you really have to (as braking will disrupt flow). The most important thing to remember is, get up to speed as quickly as you can. If you are travelling slower than the vehicles on the freeway, everyone will have to brake to let you in.

Of course this smooth process is easier on paper than in reality, because not everyone allows for perfect conditions. BUT, you can still use these techniques to facilitate a smooth merge, and continue the flow of traffic on the freeway, to the best of your ability. If you do the right thing, then it makes it harder for other road users to do the wrong thing. If everyone is doing the wrong thing, it causes all sorts of traffic havoc.
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Old 22-05-2007, 04:41 PM
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OTHER TRAFFIC ISSUES

Merging is only one part of the process. There are other issues which arise, that not only cause frustration and foster road rage amongst our freeway users, but they cause traffic jams and general congestion.

TAILGATING

Not only is tailgating downright annoying and anger-inducing, but it is the number one cause of overall freeway traffic jams or slow downs. Big call, of course, but I'll explain how.

As mentioned earlier, there should be a good distance between vehicles on the freeway. When this distance is compromised, all sorts of problems ensue, such as chain reaction braking. As mentioned earlier, if a huge line of vehicles have no distance between them, a vehicle braking at the front means that the rest of the vehicles have to brake also. This slows down the vehicles on the freeway, to below the speed limit. At its most extreme, it can even get to the point where the vehicle at the front is accelerating again after braking, and vehicles towards the back of the line are STILL braking in the chain reaction. This causes massive build ups of traffic, and the problem of crawling along the freeway at 20km/h and having to brake to a complete stop every 100m or so.

If everyone kept their distance, this wouldnt happen! Why? Because the distance between the vehicles is a buffer zone. If for some reason the vehicle at the front of the line has to brake (and I'll address the problem of unnecessary braking a bit later), then the vehicle behind them shouldnt have to brake. The distance between them should allow a buffer zone, and the vehicle behind the braking vehicle merely closes that gap and builds it again once the vehicle at the front starts moving at the correct speed again. If the 2nd vehicle has to slow down a bit, a lift of the throttle should be enough to wash off enough speed to not require any application of the brakes. In this way, every vehicle in the line will continue to move at a decent speed even if a vehicle has to slow down or brake momentarily.

Even one vehicle following this technique can free up the flow of traffic for hundreds of metres behind them. Try it next time you're on the freeway, and you'll notice that all the vehicles behind you are moving smoothly also, because they aren't having to brake simply because you aren't. It really works!

UNNECESSARY FLOW DISRUPTIONS

Its all well and good to keep a buffer zone between vehicles to prevent traffic jams, but there is often the situation where the vehicle at the front of the line has no choice but to brake or slow down, to a point where the buffer space is completely removed. This again causes a chain reaction of braking, and traffic problems ensue.

In this situation, rather than alleviating the problem, the problem itself needs to be addressed so it doesnt arise in the first place. 99.9% of the time, this problem is caused by other users disrupting the flow of the freeway unnecessarily. The freeway is called a freeway, because its meant to be a free flowing movement of vehicles. Disrupting this free flow causes traffic problems.

To explain the plethora of flow disruptions that can occur on our freeways, I've outlined some scenarios where traffic flow is disrupted, and a possible solution to the scenario. It will help you understand what should and shouldn't be done on the freeway.

1. A vehicle changes lanes, and the driver of the vehicle brakes or slows down as they change into the new lane, or they are already travelling slower than the lane which they are changing into. This causes the existing drivers in that lane to have to brake to prevent themselves from hitting that vehicle.

Solution: The driver should have changed lanes without slowing down, rather, it should have been a smooth transition into the next lane at the same speed as the rest of the traffic in that lane. If they are travelling slower than the traffic in the new lane, the driver should have sped up to the same speed as the new lane, before they changed into it, and if there was no room to do this, they should have accelerated the instant they moved into the new lane.

2. The driver of a vehicle isn't watching what they are doing i.e. on the phone, changing radio stations, looking for loose change under the seat. When they do look up and find a situation on the freeway that they weren't expecting, their first reaction is to hit the brakes, causing the driver behind to have to brake also.

Solution: The driver should have kept their eyes on the road, to prevent this situation from occurring. Simple as that!

3. In peak hour traffic when the freeway is crawling along, a driver in the middle lane swerves suddenly into a tiny gap in a faster moving lane, which means that the driver behind needs to brake to prevent themselves from hitting that vehicle.

Solution: The driver should not have swerved into a faster moving lane. This lane was moving faster at that point in time, but would more than likely have slowed down again, at which point another lane would have been moving faster momentarily. Staying where they were would have gotten them to the same point at the same time, as they did when they changed lanes.

4. The driver of a vehicle slows down to have a look at an accident or a breakdown on the side of the freeway, which causes everyone else on the freeway to brake and drive slowly also, whether they want to or not. This is also known as rubbernecking.

Solution: Whatever was happening on the side of the road, was the business of whoever was standing on the side of the road, and no one elses. The driver should have minded their own business and kept driving normally. Not only is this annoying for all road users, but its dangerous too because those who are looking to the side of the road need to take their eyes off the road, and it can cause other accidents.

5. The driver of a vehicle is sitting on 80km/h in a posted 100km/h zone. This slows the traffic down behind them to the same speed.

Solution: DO THE SPEED LIMIT!!!! If the driver can't handle that, take the bus or train instead. If they don't like that, they can write a letter, Today Tonight will love to hear from them.

6. The driver of a vehicle changes lanes 5 times in the space of 10 seconds. In the process, they cut off other road users and are normally driving erratically in this period of time. This causes other road users to slow down to prevent having an accident.

Solution: The driver should not have been driving erratically. It wouldn't have gotten them to their destination any quicker, and it made them look like an idiot in the process. Rather, they should have put themselves in a smooth flowing lane, and only changed out of that lane to move around a slower vehicle, at which point they should have moved back into that lane to prevent any further flow disruptions.

7. A driver in the right lane has realised they are about to miss their exit and decides to swerve across 3 lanes of traffic to get off at the exit. This causes all the other vehicles in their path to slow down to prevent having an accident.

Solution: The driver should have pre-empted the exit, and placed themselves in the left lane with plenty of time to spare. If they miss the exit, they should get off at the following one and head back onto the freeway in the opposite direction.

As you can see, there are many situations which can upset the flow of traffic on the freeway by causing other road users to have to brake. This also leads to accidents, which of course causes the biggest traffic jams of all.


HOGGING THE RIGHT LANE

This could have come under the above category, but I believe it warrants an entire section of its own. In my opinion, it is the number one frustration inducing road event that could possibly happen to any Perth driver. Its also illegal. As outlined in our state road laws,

Keep left

You should drive in the left lane of a multi-lane road where:
- The speed limit for that road is 90 km/h or more

In these instances, it is only permissable to use the right lane when:
- Overtaking a slower vehicle.
- Getting ready to make a right hand turn.
- The road is heavily congested with traffic.


Rules aside, the worst cases of right lane hogging occur when a vehicle "paces" another vehicle at below the speed limit.

Scenario: A vehicle in the left lane is doing 80km/h and a vehicle in the middle lane is also doing 80km/h. Another driver decides to place his vehicle in the right lane and do 80km/h also next to the other vehicles, blocking all the traffic behind.

Solution? The driver of that vehicle should have stayed behind one of the other slower moving vehicles in the left or middle lane, rather than pacing them in the free moving right hand lane. That lane should have been free for other road users to overtake at the speed limit.

Remember folks: The right lane should only be used to overtake, or drive at a higher speed than slower moving vehicles in the other lanes.

A final hint on right lane thieves. If you get anyone giving you the usual comeback of "Oh but we were doing the speed limit in the right lane, and you shouldn't be speeding anyway", give them the reply of "Driving for extended periods of time in the right lane is a traffic offence that incurs penalty units and a fine, so jokes on you!"

To finish off, here are some words of advice from our government's official Drive Safe handbook.

Although freeways are designed for high-speed travel, they do demand special care. It is wise to:
- Stay within the one lane and keep as far left as possible.
- Plan your journey and know which exit you need to take well in advance.
- Increase following distances and take note of pavement arrows at exits
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Old 22-05-2007, 04:47 PM
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Looks like common sense to me. Too bad its something the common driver on Perth roads doesnt have.
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Old 22-05-2007, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Two
Looks like common sense to me. Too bad its something the common driver on Perth roads doesnt have.
ditto!

look like you've had a lot of time to think and type joe!
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Old 22-05-2007, 04:51 PM
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Damn Joe your server must have been down all day!! Merging here is the worst I have ever seen no doubt about it. If perth drivers tried some of those things you mention in a real town such as Sydney, Melb or dare I say Los Angelas you would have a disaster and a shoot out on on your hands. Biggest gripe is that people chose to drive at 50-60 kmh on the on ramps and the rest of the traffic is going 100-110 kmh. ARGGGGGGG !!!!
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Old 22-05-2007, 04:56 PM
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Do you actually expect anyone to read that entire novel there CS Lewis?
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Old 22-05-2007, 04:59 PM
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Haha in New Zealand they have signs on the freeway that say "merge like a zip". Having said that they also have signs that say "if you feel tired, pull over and have an energy drink".

Nice write up joe, give me a bell if you need a hand putting the site up.

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Do you actually expect anyone to read that entire novel there CS Lewis?
What kind of books do you read? Maybe he should make the font bigger?
j/k
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Old 22-05-2007, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakks
Do you actually expect anyone to read that entire novel there CS Lewis?
bahahahahah The Screwtape Letters are great read but no where near as long as Joe's thread!
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Old 22-05-2007, 05:07 PM
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couldnt of said it better!
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Old 22-05-2007, 05:29 PM
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you must have really been BORED..
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