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Driver behaviour plays role in traffic slowdown

Experts suggest poor driving behaviour among the causes of traffic in the city

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: Have you ever thought that your driving style could be the cause of a traffic jam? Well, studies say poor driving behaviour is indeed one of the causes that slow down traffic.

Delays on highways are common in most major cities in the world and Dubai is no different, with recent studies showing that the city experiences an average delay of 15 minutes in journey time, which exceeds up to 30 to 40 minutes on key arteries.

According to experts, tailbacks are caused by many factors like higher volume of vehicles, bottlenecks, obstacles on road, road design, accidents etc. However, many traffic jams leave drivers baffled as there seems to be no apparent reason as they finally reach the end of a tailback and find no visible cause for the delay.

“While the underlying cause of a jam might be an accident, a bottleneck, or drivers simply changing lanes on busy roads, it is how the drivers react in the cars behind that causes traffic to slow to a halt,” said Thomas Edelman, managing director and founder of

Though, many have put traffic jams down to the sheer volume of traffic, he added that while this clearly plays a part, the main issue is around the smoothness of traffic flow.

“Heavy traffic will not automatically lead to congestion but can be smooth-flowing. However, time-delay in drivers’ reactions, which lead to drivers braking more heavily than would have been necessary had they identified and reacted to a problem ahead a second earlier. These ‘waves of deceleration’ are common during heavy traffic conditions,” said Edelman.

He added that an accident isn’t always the cause of deceleration, sometimes they are caused by near-misses, by people cutting each other off, by merging lanes at a construction site, or simply by extra cars entering from an on-ramp.

“Even a single rubbernecker could cause a ‘wave of deceleration’ by momentarily slowing down to look at something interesting,” he emphasised.

Phil Clarke, principal consultant (Road Safety & Incident Management), at Traffic Research Laboratory (TRL), agreed that aggressive motorists, who drive too fast and too close to the vehicle in front, or timid motorists, who leave too big a gap, send a ‘wave of deceleration’ backwards down the road until traffic grinds to a halt.

“Such behaviour leads to the stop-start traffic jams that infuriates motorists. Other factors include poor driver behaviour and practices like lane-hogging and not using indicators. There are also drivers whose full attention is not on the road itself but on other things like a mobile phone or talking to someone in the car, resulting in them being unaware of the fact that they are slowing down and are not fully aware of what they are doing,” said Clarke.

Suggesting that every single motorist on road can cause the traffic to slow down with his or her misbehaviour, Edelman urged the UAE motorists to avoid changing lanes frequently or cutting into other lanes.

He also urged the drivers to avoid abrupt braking and lane jumping, which also results in slowing in down the traffic.

Other behavioural factors that could result in the wave of deceleration are tailgating, driving in distracted mode or aggressive driving.