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by Tim Beissmann

How do traffic jams start? It’s one of the great conundrums of our time, and one only set to get worse as more cars enter the rat race.

Everyone has a theory on it, but few have made the science of traffic jams look as attractive as US-based consumer advice website CarInsurance.org in its new infographic.

CarInsurance says the overarching problem is a simple one: too many people are trying to use too few strips of tarmac. Other major contributing factors include road works and bad weather conditions.

It supports the concept of the ‘backward-travelling wave’, where an unexpected action on the road causes the cars following to slow down, each one progressively more than the next in an attempt to maintain the same distance between cars.

It goes on to detail the three main theories of how traffic jams start and offers three countermeasures to try to improve the situation.

Also listed is America’s top 10 most congested roads, which may provide some perspective the next time you’re stuck in a bumper-to-bumper mess of metal and brake lights.

Why Traffic Jams Happen width=

Image source: CarInsurance.org

We’ve also included a short clip from Japan that demonstrates how easily traffic jams can start, even in the most controlled environments.




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