Rush-hour traffic, also known as stop-start driving, is often done when motorists are tired – either first thing in the morning or straight after a full day’s work. Tthe last thing you want is an accident and on top of this having to make a car insurance claim. But if you remember to drive in a measured way, you can reduce your risk of an accident while lowering the wear and tear on your vehicle.
Making the effort to notice what is happening further along down the road will increase your chances of anticipating changes in traffic speed. This technique can also give you time to avoid problems that may be ahead.
In stop-start traffic, many drivers are only looking at the car ahead, as eyes begin to glaze and concentration levels wane. But if you also keep your eyes up, and glance into the distance, it could buy you valuable time, whilst helping you to work out the trend of the traffic.
Anticipating when you’ll need to slow down will give you the edge in rush-hour traffic, but gradual braking and minimal use of gears also saves fuel. So, look ahead to see when you’ll need to come to a stop, and aim to be able to simply take your foot off the accelerator, rather than have to jam it on the brakes.
Turtle and hare
Maintaining a steady speed is our first tip, and this means accelerating slowly, not nipping ahead to fill the gap in front as quickly as possible.
We’re all familiar with the concertina effect of cars rushing and halting – from above, it looks like a coiling snake moving across the ground. But by using your speed in an efficient way, you can stay out of trouble and help to maintain a smooth flow of traffic.
In fuel terms, it’s also more economical to increase speed gradually and although it takes slightly longer to reach the speed you want, it may also mean you will not be travelling at full tilt when the cars in front slow again and you have to brake.
Get into gear
Linked to this is learning to time your gear changes. Experts say that the right moment to change up a gear is when the speed you’ve reached can be maintained in the next gear without pressing down on the accelerator.
The best time to change down is when you can do so without causing a noisy, racing surge in the engine speed. Automatics can be nearly as economical as manual cars, as long as you avoid using the ‘kick down’ too much.
Timing is everything
If possible, avoid peak rush-hour times! You could try to travel earlier or later, and sometimes even five or ten minutes will make all the difference.
Alternatively, choose a more economical route. Stop-start rush-hour driving is twice as expensive as main roads with free-flowing traffic, while high-speed motorway driving can increase fuel costs by more than a third.
Plan your route carefully and avoid congested times if possible – it’ll save you stress as well as petrol!
But if you do find yourself in rush-hour traffic, and up against the clock, here are five relaxation techniques to help you keep calm!
- Concentrate on relaxing your shoulders, arms and body as you drive.
- If you are in stopped traffic, roll your head and shoulders and have a stretch.
- Breathe in deeply, right into the bottom of your stomach, and then right out again. Repeat this as many times as you need to.
- Listen to classical or mood music that will help you to relax.
- Listen to something that will make you laugh.