CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

Go Slow to Go Fast

My latest Slate column explores the concept of “rolling speed harmonization” on a Colorado highway.

As one report describes it, speed harmonization “holds that by encouraging speed compliance and reducing speed differential between vehicles, volume throughput can be maximized without a physical increase in roadway dimensions.”

The concept plays, in part, on one of traffic engineering’s core truths: Big speed differentials are dangerous. This is laid out in the “Green Book,” the bible of the American Association of Surface Highway Transportation Officials. “Crashes are not related as much to speed as to the range in speeds from the highest to lowest,” the book states. “Studies show that, regardless of the average speed on the highway, the more a vehicle deviates from the average speed, the greater its chances of becoming involved in a crash.”

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2011 at 6:49 am and is filed under Cars, Congestion, Roads, Traffic Engineering. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “Go Slow to Go Fast”

  1. gpsman Says:

    “…if we could only cull the weak gazelles in our furiously charging migration—we could stamp out congestion.”

    This hints at my untestable theory of why so many otherwise reasonable people turn into complete assholes behind the wheel. They allow themselves to revert to our primordial instincts; slow = weak.

  2. Ed Says:

    I think that was the main reason Prof Washington found a safety benefit in a study of speed cameras on a highway here in Scottdale AZ, see “adot study on loop 101″
    http://azbikelaw.org/blog/arizona-to-end-highway-photo-enforcement/
    The legislature has since ended all photo enforcement on state highways.

    p.s. AAHSTO, the S = State (not surface).

  3. Laurens de Jong Says:

    I shared this with my former Dutch compatriates, who quickly pointed out that what the Colorado police was doing is called blokrijden over there. Apparently, it’s become routine practice, first in Belgium, but also in the Netherlands. Here’s a YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gzkwwT80OY. The blokrijden doesn’t happen until almost the end of the video, though.

  4. Richard Masoner Says:

    California Highway Patrol also runs pace cars on mountain highways during inclement weather.

  5. Robert Says:

    That’s all well and good until…..one of those speeding motor vehicles encounters me traveling 12 mph on my bicycle or my 3.2 mph while walking.

    p.s. I’d try to do my part to close that speed differential but the 1/5 of a horsepower that I produce can only generate so much speed.

  6. Opus the Poet Says:

    Your Slate article appeared in the back page of my local “paper of record” the Dallas Morning News this Sunday.

  7. George Says:

    Tom refers to the rice in the funnel analogy in the artical. I would like to amend it. The faster the vehicle is traveling the longer the ‘grain of rice’ becomes because the average [sane] driver needs more open lane at higher speeds. Therefore the faster the average speed the less capacity the highway has available.

    Optimizing throughput average speed by lowering speed limits makes sense. I can forsee the use of todays technogly to ‘look way down the road’ and slow the vehicle long before it speeds into the congestion.

    Then the next step is to let a computer drive as we average humans are ill equipped to do so.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

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