You can prevent traffic jams by changing one driving habit

The worst type of traffic jam is a "phantom" traffic jam - those traffic jams that appear to occur for no reason. Phantom Jams leave you sitting there wondering why? The fact is we know what causes them and we can change our driving behavior to prevent them.
On a recent road trip, my family got caught in two such traffic jams—each on I-90 in eastern Washington, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Eastbound we backed up 15 miles over 1½ hours. Occupants in thousands of trapped cars clogged cellphone towers trying to figure out why. Turns out the state DOT had set up orange barrels in a lane; At least there was an explanation. On the return trip, although I checked websites and traffic cams prior to departure, we got stuck again, for a 30-mile trip over 2½ hours. This time without explanation. The traffic eventually mysteriously broke loose and everyone got their turn and sped away like a bat from hell. Probably to find a toilet.
Getting stuck gave me time to think about the science of traffic flow. It is a discipline steeped in mathematics and infused with human behavior. If you are interested in mathematics, you should definitely check out the federal government's "Revised Monograph on Traffic Flow Theory" or some of the various research from Delft University in the Netherlands or MIT. Oh the formulas, oh the charts!
It might be easier to just watch this now legendary video from Nagoya University in Japan. The researchers sent 22 drivers on a circular track and asked them to maintain a constant speed of 30 km/h. Sounds easy right? But guess what happened:
You no doubt know of some ways to avoid congestion - at least congestion on freeways, as opposed to those on "signposted" surface roads with intersections. For example:
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Minimize lane changes and avoid changing lanes suddenly.
Look far down the road to avoid suddenly slowing down.
Don't be alarmed at the sight of an accident or a policeman writing a ticket.
And like we told you before, for the sake of all things holy, zip together.
But there's another simple suggestion that you might be less familiar with — and might not quite like the sound of. If even a few of us would develop this habit, we would save ourselves a great deal of heartache.
It is that:
Keep distance. LOTS of following distance. MUCH MORE than you think, way more than the four Mississippi count you were taught in driver school. Instead, do it more like Eight-Mississippi or Ten-Mississippi.
What you say? And let an idiot change lanes and stand in front of me? Yes. Exactly.
Here's why:
If you're following closely, or even at a safe distance that we've been taught, and a driver ahead changes into your lane or slows down, tap the brakes. Maybe just for a second. The person right behind you brakes for two seconds, the person behind them four seconds. Then six, then 10, then 11, 12, 20. You've created a ripple effect. Some in the traffic flow game even borrowed a term from defecation (as appropriate): a peristaltic reaction.
A simple term for this: traffic wave or shock wave. The waves build and build and soon there is a jam. The people at the end of the traffic jam will never know that your little brake tap started the whole cascading mess. It's the butterfly effect that plays out on our highways every day.
The story goes on

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