School of Gridlock: How to Drive Smarter When There's Traffic

There are techniques to avoid a chaotic mess on the roads.

There is more traffic than ever across America’s roads, but Sam Schwartz, a renowned traffic engineer who coined the term “gridlock,” says there are things drivers can do to reduce their traffic headaches.

“We've got to get smart,” he told Inside Edition. “We're not smart right now."

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Inside Edition set up a series of demonstrations to illustrate how traffic jams form and how drivers can avoid them.

In one demonstration, an accident blocked the road, forcing drivers to merge. The result was a chaotic mess as drivers argued over who should go first.

Schwartz said: "Had they all been polite to each other, we would have been moving a lot better."

He says there is a better way to merge lanes — the so-called "zippering" technique.

"The right lane goes and the left lane goes, it means they are cooperating," Schwartz said. 

And do you ever wonder why highway circulation sometimes comes to a complete halt for no obvious reason? It’s called a “Phantom Traffic Jam." 

Inside Edition wanted to show how easy it is for a phantom traffic jam to happen, so we teamed up with Zipcar, a leading worldwide car-sharing company committed to reducing traffic.

Zipcar provided a fleet of cars and drivers to simulate how traffic can pop up out of nowhere.

The drivers were told to maintain a steady speed and stay at a safe distance from the car in front while the went around a large traffic circle - but they just couldn’t do it. When one car slows down, then the cars behind slow down until eventually one has to stop.  

To drive better, Schwartz said that drivers need to use their brakes less, not to tailgate and do not weave in and out of lanes.

And what about people who constantly switch lanes in traffic trying to get ahead? We put the concept to the test.

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Inside Edition’s Jim Moret and producer Brianna Deutsch tested the theory on California’s notoriously jammed highways.

They started side-by-side in Santa Monica, California, heading to downtown Los Angeles

He aggressively switched lanes every time he spotted an opening, while she drove in a safer and more conservative manner, always sticking to the center lane.

After 35 minutes of driving - with Moret changing lanes constantly and Deutsch staying in one lane - the result was a virtual tie.

Promotional Consideration Provided by Zipcar, Inc.

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