Why Traffic Jams Occur

This post comes under the heading of “Not Exactly Scientific but Darned-Reliable Nonetheless”.

I was driving home the other day amidst the normal horrors of the southbound 101 at rush hour, and was irritated to see that traffic was stalled and slowed much farther along my route than normal. As I approached my exit, I saw the reason.

On the side of the road was a single traffic cop with his pretty blue and red flashing lights, and a single driver receiving a citation from said cop. As soon as traffic got past the cop by the side of the road, the traffic jam ceased and I was able to resume normal highway speeds.

Ordinarily, I would have forgotten this incident as it doesn’t seem particularly meaningful. We’ve all cursed the stupidity of people who seem to insist on slowing down to look at something on the side of the road, and this experience was no different. But the next day something happened that put the incident in a whole new light.

The next day I drove home the same time, same route, but traffic was moving at normal highway speeds the whole trip. At almost precisely the same point near my exit, I saw a car stalled on the side of the road. The only difference between this day’s trip and the previous day’s is that there was no cop with pretty flashing lights next to the stalled car.

And suddenly it hit me: cops cause traffic jams.

I’ve since noticed that this is almost ALWAYS the cause of traffic jams: whenever traffic on my commute is clogged up, the source of the bottleneck is almost always a cop on the side of the road writing a traffic tickets. I challenge you to start observing whether or not this is true in your community as well.

I hate traffic jams, especially unnecessary ones, and have been pondering the problem for years. I’ve always blamed the general stupidity of the populace for most traffic jams, but this observation has changed my opinion. Rather than condemn the populace for slowing down in the presence of flashing red and blue lights, why not just accept such behavior as a given in human behavior, and figure out a way to manage around it? And the way to manage around it is simple: prohibit the police from stopping anyone for traffic violations during rush hour.

I have proof-positive that if the cops would leave us alone to manage ourselves, we’d do just fine. (I know cops don’t believe this, but cops don’t believe anything.)

I propose that the cops stay off the road altogether during rush hour, and only show up in the event of a traffic accident. I’m sure some faint-hearted limp-wristed milqutoast will protest that the presence of traffic cops keep us safer, but my experience says otherwise. My experience says that the presence of cops – especially with their flashing lights – is the cause of the type of traffic snarl-ups which inevitably lead to multiple car rear-end collisions. I’d be willing to bet that those are the main sort of traffic accident that occurs during rush hour.

Want to have a faster, safer commute?

Get rid of the traffic cops.

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