It happens to most drivers a few times a year. You’re sailing along on the freeway when you’re forced to come to a stop, or at least a crawl. You can’t see why things are slowing around the bend – and when you get there, traffic is moving better.
Traffic planners call this a “shockwave.”
Here’s how it happens:
- Traffic is rolling along at 60 mph when someone slows to 50 mph. In this example, the driver in Car B does so to avoid hitting Car A, whose driver swerves at the last second to exit.
- The next driver slows to 45 mph to maintain a safe distance from cars A and B.
- Drivers farther back see the brake lights and begin slowing down.
- The pattern continues, and more drivers apply their brakes until traffic comes to a crawl. By the time the rear of the jam catches up to where the shockwave began, the offending parties are long gone and there is no sign of what caused the problem.
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