This is accomplished usually by coasting or changing lanes. Both can be used successfully (safely, timely and masterfully with minimal slowing) if you are ‘reading traffic’ and paying attention to your surroundings. …Depending on your surroundings, changing lanes is usually most efficient.
Tip #38 was about observing someone’s (anyone’s) deceleration and coasting in order to learn about them. …Driving tip #39 takes it a step further and is about observing how someone reacts to someone else’s deceleration. Do they automatically decelerate? Do they maneuver to see ahead? Do they look in their mirrors to prepare a lane change? Or are they already aware and change lanes smoothly and timely? It’s all information that we can learn about those around us.
Just as was mentioned about ‘changing lanes’ and ‘accelerating’, you can also learn a lot about someone by ‘how and when’ they decelerate. Is it timely? How much of it is necessary vs. unnecessary? Are they trying to keep the same gap length or comfort zone? Are they trying to maintain a single speed… or ‘the speed limit’? Are they consciously trying to minimize slowing for themselves and/or for others? Answering these questions gives you information above skills, abilities and beliefs, which you can then use to your benefit in the moment and in the future.
Are they looking ahead? Are they prepared to act? How is their timing? All of this and more is what you can learn about someone by observing how they react to another driver’s acceleration. To take it a step further, you can also read and learn about how others react to that person’s reaction to the initial individual’s acceleration. For example, if someone unnecessarily accelerates or accelerates too much, is the person following aware and doesn’t over-accelerate too? …How about those observing them? How is their awareness and timing? Again, the more aware and more skilled a person is, the better the timing of their accelerations usually are, rather than just reacting to the person ahead.
The more aware and more skilled a person is, the better the timing of their accelerations usually are. …Many people wait too long before accelerating when they don’t have to, which impacts their commute and the traffic around them. Where as if, they could be ‘reading traffic’, getting ready, starting to roll and preparing to act, they could have a timely acceleration that benefited themselves and everyone following (even next to them). If you watch 100 people at an intersection, you’ll probably see over 90% getting a slow and/or late start. Indeed, many more people could clear an intersection if others improved their timing and ‘reading traffic’ skills in order to have a safe beneficial acceleration.
Observing and learning about others’ accelerations will allow you to better time your accelerations, decelerations and coasts in the moment and further down the road. Also, knowing that ‘acceleration isn’t always bad’ (which it’s commonly taught that it is), is imperative to understand. To be able to discern good acceleration from bad and unnecessary accelerations is an important skill to build and use.
This is true for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ moves. When you see one, chances are there will be many more by that individual. You want to learn about and capitalize on the positives and learn about and avoid the negatives. That way, you can remain efficient and safe, as well as help others stay efficient and safe. This is also an excellent self-awareness tool. By asking yourself if/how much of the good/bad technique you do, you can better advance your own skills.
This is true on so many levels. Not only can you learn a lot about the ‘lane changer’, you can also learn about multiple others (even those farther ahead) by how they respond to the ‘lane changer’. Do they unnecessarily slow? Or, if slowing is necessary, do they do it wisely? Are they caught off guard? Do they take advantage of the newly opened space? Are they looking ahead and paying attention? Do they use their lane to help provide more room to maneuver and to allow others to better see, accelerate or change lanes? (Most of these are ‘reading traffic’ techniques that we’ve already covered.) Indeed, a single lane change is an opportunity to learn about multiple drivers in just a few seconds. Information that you can use to better predict their actions and time yours.
Combining ‘gap technology’ and ‘lane changing’, reveals a lot about an individual. It reveals their awareness (reading traffic), timing and handling skills. …Did they use their gap when preparing for the lane change? Did they accelerate to fill a large gap thus creating minimal or no deceleration or did they unnecessarily decelerate and/or cause others to decelerate? And if slowing was necessary, did they use their gap wisely in order to minimize its affect on others? …How do they continue to use their new gap after the lane change?
Was it smooth and efficient or was it rough and awkward? Did they use their mirrors or did they only twist their body to look over their shoulder? Did they observe continually or was it a last second thought? Did they accelerate into an open gap without slowing anybody down or did they unnecessarily step on their brakes and cause people to slow? All of this provides valuable information that you can use to learn about them, which you can then use in the moment and on down the road.
Not just right in front of you and into your lane, but all around you and into and out of multiple lanes. You can use the observations to learn about that person and others, as well as, to be proactive about. We’ll cover several ‘reading traffic’ tips dealing with observing lane changes, which you can use to reduce slowing and over-accelerations, and even help others prevent accidents.
This one observation can give you a tremendous amount of information about someone. Information that can come in handy, on down the road. You can use it to better predict their future actions, which in turn can be used to better time you accelerations and decelerations. Side note: Providing room/‘making a move’ for others isn’t only for their benefit, it’s also a valuable communication technique for anyone anyone who observes it. Indeed, many thousands of accidents could have been avoided if someone would have made a seemingly unnecessary move JUST to raise awareness!
Do they simply follow in a straight line, in the middle of the lane, keeping the same gap length? Or maybe they are always on the outside of a lane, away from oncoming traffic, never trying to look past the vehicle ahead? Or maybe they move freely in their lane, consciously trying to see traffic farther ahead? The first two usually indicate less awareness and skill, while the last one indicates more. With just a couple of seconds of study, it’s usually possible to determine what type of driver they are. Combine this with continued observation and you can most often predict their actions, which allows you to better time yours.
This is how to minimizing unnecessary accelerations and decelerations in order to increase efficiency and achieve maximum flow. It takes constant awareness, continually learning about others and working on one’s own timing. But when you do achieve it, very little fuel will be wasted. Read through the tip again. It’s not just about ‘reading’ others’ timing of accelerations and decelerations, BUT rather those things in respect to others’ accelerations and decelerations. It’s taking it to an even deeper level.
This ‘reading traffic’ driving tip is about how ‘situations and environments are always changing so what might be perfectly fine one moment may not be wise the next’. And in order to stay efficient and safe requires continually taking in information in order to make honest analyses and judgements.
This isn’t always true, of course. But for the most part, if handling and ‘reading traffic’ skills hadn’t been increased to the level they were, more than likely they wouldn’t be following at the distance they are. This is true for whatever size of gap a person has. This does NOT mean that the closer you follow the better! There is an ideal following distance that varies depending on the equipment, the individual, the road conditions, the road design, the traffic flow, etc… and skill level. But, none the less, virtually every gap can tell you a lot about that individual and more times than not those with shorter gaps are more skilled and aware. Important Note: Again, to reiterate, ‘looking ahead and reading others properly’ is paramount in order to successfully utilize shorter gaps and still be efficient and safe. Those who don’t read traffic properly, will spend much of their time and energy decelerating and re-accelerating over and over again. And it’s easy to see who they are by observing their timing, ‘reading traffic’ and handling skills in their actions and reactions. (You noticing and learning about these individuals is more of you ‘reading traffic properly’.) 2nd Important Note: There are also people with short gaps who are too close and constantly cross the lines into others’ personal space*. When you see it, read it and learn about that person. And if this describes you (as it has us all on occasion), know that there is a difference in ‘communicating with others’ (we’ll cover communication later) and ‘irritating them’. If you ‘communicate’ without irritating them, they are much more likely to work with you, rather than against you. *Personal space depends on the individual. What is acceptable to one person may not be acceptable to another. Knowing this is important. Personal space can be partially determined by observing (reading) a person’s skills and confidence. For example, the gap a person has in front of them can tell you about what their ‘comfort zone’ and ‘personal space’ boundaries are.
What most people who have a large gap don’t realize is the affect that they have on the traffic behind them. Many times, they could use some of their gap to help prevent traffic congestion instead of compounding it. And even more so, when someone changes lanes in front of them and they slow down to get that same gap back, they often cause an even bigger chain reaction. There are several things that could be done to prevent the ‘need’ for the excessive gap. Mainly, increasing ‘reading traffic’, timing, handling and reaction skills, which is why all of these first 100 tips have to with ‘reading traffic’. Important Note: I must keep reiterating that ‘looking ahead and reading the situation and others (and their gap and surroundings) properly’ is paramount in order to successfully tell if a gap is unnecessarily large. (For example, the type of automobile, what’s farther ahead, the road, the weather, how they accelerate, decelerate, change lanes and react to others are all taken into consideration.)
If a person unnecessarily creates chain reactions or unnecessarily turns a slow-and-go into stop-and-go traffic or initiates an accident because of wanting the large gap, then it’s not very safe or efficient, is it? Important Note: I feel compelled to reiterate that ‘looking ahead and reading the situation and others (and their gap and surroundings) properly’ is paramount in order to successfully tell if a gap is unnecessarily large.
If someone changes lanes into a large gap, does the person following slow down to get the same gap back? If so, that tells you what their comfort zone is. Or, do they use the gap to efficiently absorb some of the slowing. Or, do they change lanes timely without causing slowing for anyone. What they do and how they do it will indicate their handling and timing skills. Important note: Again, ‘reading’ and taking their surroundings into consideration is necessary in order to read their gap and actions properly.
When you know what to look for, a person’s gap can tell you about their comfort zone, their confidence, their awareness and their handling, timing and reaction skills. And once you start learning this about an individual, it becomes easier to predict their actions and reactions and thus better perform yours. Important note: ’Reading’ and taking their surroundings into consideration is necessary in order to read them and their gap properly.
Do you actively look for gaps and how they are being utilized? Many people simply look for one or two vehicles. And those who do look at gaps misinterpret/mis-read what those gaps mean.
Another obscure tip. This one is especially helpful in slower moving traffic when watching for movement, such as stop-and-go rush hour at night and at intersections. Another favorite is watching reflections off of store windows when preparing to back out. They can all aid you in noticing others and their actions so that you can better time yours.
Even when you can’t see the vehicles in front of the vehicle ahead of you, there are still indications of where they are and when they are braking. …And even though this tip may seem insignificant, it can valuable information and make the difference when it comes time to #preventaccidents.
You can tell a lot about a person’s skills by how they utilize hills. Do they unnecessarily step on the brakes when going downhill? If so, when do they let off? …Or, do they accelerate or use gravity and their momentum when going downhill in order to help propel them up the other side? (Of course, getting an accurate ‘reading’ of their skills requires taking their full surroundings into consideration, which requires more ‘reading traffic’ from you.)
Being able to see multiple vehicles (and thus multiple gaps) in multiple lanes is valuable information, indeed. It gives a person the opportunity to better time their accelerations, decelerations and lane changes.
Seeing around large trucks is a perfect example. Where once you could see a few automobiles and their gaps*, now you can see many automobiles, each gap, the people, their body language, their level of attention, their actions and reactions, lane positioning, lane changes, accelerations, decelerations, etc… Each piece of knowledge is valuable information about that person’s skills, which you can use to better anticipate the accelerations and decelerations in front of you and thus be more efficient with yours. *Understanding ‘gap technology’ is very important in order to maximize the benefits of this tip. It’s probably not what you think. We’ll come ‘gap technology’ soon.
Not only is it beneficial because you get to see many automobiles and what they are doing but you also get to see the gaps in-between each (gap technology) and how they are being used. (We’ll cover ‘gap technology’ soon.) Looking around the passenger side of the person in front of you isn’t always easy. Many times it is necessary to move over to the far side of the lane.
Now, instead of just observing the one person in front, by looking through their windshield to see what the person in front of them is doing, you now have knowledge to make a more educated choice on whether deceleration is necessary, and if so, how much.
A single individual can prevent or create stop-and-go rush hour traffic. How each of us reacts to those around us determines how much (if any) deceleration gets perpetuated.
Being able to eliminate a portion of deceleration rather than compounding it IS how to eliminate most traffic congestion. It can also be the difference in wether an accident occurs or not. But as the tip says, taking everything into consideration is key. Your surroundings, what’s farther ahead, your gap distance, the skills of the person braking and why they are braking, to name a few.