Fri, 31 Aug, 2018Basmah Qazi

How this simple road rule could put an end to traffic jams forever

How this simple road rule could put an end to traffic jams forever

A Japanese engineer has made a bold claim saying he can solve the never-ending amount of traffic jams around the world by changing the habits of just eight drivers.

But while it seems like a dream come true, many motorists won’t be fond of his plan because according to him, you’ll have to slow down to get to your destination quicker.

Professor Katsuhiro Nishinari, from the University of Tokyo, studies the mathematics behind traffic jams, a formula he likes to call “jamology".

Speaking to, Prof Nishinari said that if everyone followed this one rule, traffic jams will cease to exist – and he wasn’t just talking about congestion on motorways. The Professor believes the same theory applies to pedestrians, and a dedicated slow lane should be implemented on all footpaths for the elderly.

Prof Nishinari, who was recently in Melbourne for the Transport and Tourism Forum’s Australian Transport Summit, said humans should observe the habits of insects as “ants never have traffic jams".

The reasoning behind that is because ants don’t break, and the domino effect of people stopping is the problem.

“People are always trying to go fast. When they do, they tend to have less headway between them and the vehicle in front and that is very bad and is where traffic jams occur,” he said.

When comparing humans to ants, it was found that ants kept a relative distance between themselves and the ant in front.

“A jam is a kind of wave in the opposite direction to the direction of travel. Waves is the propagation of braking but if there is headway, the next car does not have to break as much and these waves are dispersed between the cars.”

Prof Nishinari says that for this plan to be effective, motorists must keep a distance of 40 metres or more, which is the length of 10 Holden Barinas.

Generally, state road agencies recommend drivers to keep a minimum two-second distance between them and the car in front, which would be a 34-metre gap. And to prove his theory, the Professor tested his plan on Japan’s busiest motorway – Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway.

“At 4 pm there was always about a 10km traffic jam. We asked eight cars to keep headway; we asked them to move more slowly than other cars and it was amazing. With just eight cars the jam didn’t appear for 40 minutes. If you continuously had all cars (keeping headway) maybe you can shift the onset again and have no traffic jam.

“It’s counter-intuitive but if we slow down it makes the flow faster. Slower is faster. That’s the jamologist’s big point.”

While this all sounds great in theory, the problem is that Australian motorists enjoy driving fast. Research conducted by NSW Roads and Maritime Services found that the majority of drivers mutually agreed that low-level speeding is acceptable.

Prof Nishinari’s theories will be tested in the lead-up to the 2020 Olympic Games, held in Tokyo. Working with car manufacturer Toyota, they will see if they can reduce congestion in one of the busiest cities in the world.

What do you think of his theory? Do you think it would reduce traffic jams? Let us know in the comments below.