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Jul 1, 2011 12:16 AM by Carolyn Carver

Traffic Trends: How drivers habits impact traffic jams

Colorado Springs traffic engineers say the holiday traffic is here and will be all weekend, but those clogged highways got us wondering about some of the most annoying traffic trends and why they are, so we asked the experts.

You know that annoying feeling when the line of cars in front of you slam on their breaks, just to speed right back up again? There's no accident or reason for the slowdown, so what causes that stop and go traffic on the interstate?

 "It's the 'traffic wave effect,'" says Robert Helt, the city's principal traffic engineer.

He says it's very common and the biggest reason for daily traffic jams.

He says drivers tend to stick together, so there will be waves of cars between stretches of open highway. But with little space between cars, drivers react quickly to a break tap, and that one tap can cause a four seconds delay and the backups can stretch for miles.

And for every minute of congestion, it takes four minutes to clear out.

So in the case of big backups or emergencies, the city can step in to help.

Unlike most city's in the country, Colorado Springs has the ability to control the state owned on and off ramp street lights.

So when there are big back ups or emergencies they can "green light" the drivers pulling off the interstate onto the surface streets, making sure the green light stays on a little longer.

That plus alerting drivers with signs and tweets, Helt says, "being able to affect everything as a network we can make things run as efficiently as they can."

To help this traffic heavy holiday, you've heard it before, drive the speed limit and leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you.

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