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What's Bugging You? L.A. traffic flow

November 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Sitting in traffic for no apparent reason is bugging many of our viewers. So why does this happen so often in Los Angeles? Here's what it takes to keep moving.

The reality in Southern California is that almost any time of day, seven days a week, you have to deal with traffic.

"Rush hour is supposed to be 'rush' hour, not 'slow down' hour," said driver Priscilla Acedo.

Southland freeways have a lot of capacity and can handle most traffic. It's our driving habits that often make traffic jams worse than they have to be.

"They slow down for no reason," said L.A. driver Randdi Misrahi.

Misrahi sent Eyewitness News an e-mail because he sees it all the time: big traffic jams and then suddenly the road is wide open.

"There's no point. It's not rush hour, and there's no accident. It's just people are driving too slow in lanes," said Misrahi.

People slow down to rubberneck, or when changing stations on the radio. Some people brake constantly. When you brake instead of leaving enough space in front of you, it can cause a chain reaction.

Experts say one of the reasons traffic flow doesn't move quickly is that people just aren't paying attention when they're driving.

"If you kind of think of a wave, when somebody slows down that ripples through the whole system, that the person behind them slows down, and by the time that gets to the end of that line people are essentially stopped," said Richard Little, USC professor of infrastructure policy.

Cars in left lanes slow down even though it's clear ahead of them. Behind them everything stops, then there are big gaps in traffic. Often drivers become distracted.

"Most of the time traffic is crawling along and people will just lay back and lay back and lay back, and eventually you've got a significant amount of the capacity is in these empty holes that everyone is leaving through the system," said Little. "So what you have essentially are these rolling roadblocks where there's no way for traffic to move through the system."

Misrahi, who is 16, has only been driving for eight months, but he sees plenty of distracted drivers and tries to be extra careful.

"I try to be 100 percent aware when I'm behind the wheel, know all of my surroundings," said Misrahi.

It all comes down to that: concentrating on driving. And unfortunately a number of drivers simply don't know how to deal with the very complex Southern California traffic.

"We teach people the rules of the road and basic safety and what to do, but we are not taught how to drive," said Little.

And 80 percent of accidents are caused because the driver was distracted, certainly something to think about as you head out on the road.


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