BOSTON (CBS) – Boston drivers are not exactly known for their civility when it comes to the daily commute. We have all seen plenty of bad habits and may be guilty of a few ourselves.
“Merging without a blinker is a big one,” one driver told us in downtown Boston.
“I wish people would learn how to drive,” a woman in Chelmsford complained.
UMass Amherst traffic engineering professor Mike Knodler studies driver behavior. He says the sheer volume of cars on the road is to blame for most of our daily frustrations, but he agrees bad drivers can make it even worse.
“They are trying to gain an advantage over every other driver, and so that certainly has an impact on traffic,” he explained.
BLOCKING THE BOX
A big no-no according to Knodler is ‘blocking the box’. That’s when drivers go through a light or stop sign when they don’t have enough room to make it all the way through the intersection. Drivers trying to get through the perpendicular intersection are then stuck and have to wait.
“Blocking the box, [it’s] illegal. Hopefully most people know that. It can have serious impacts,” he said.
IGNORING RIGHT OF WAY
A pet peeve for commuter Susan Korsak is when drivers give up the right of way. She sees this every day on her commute from Tyngsboro to Bedford – drivers pulling up to a stop sign, expecting to be waved right through. The result is a long line of traffic on busy Route 4.
“We’ve almost forced drivers to ignore the stop sign, creating a bad behavior,” Knodler said when we showed him video of the intersection.
THE LATE MERGE
The late merge is another source of frustration for drivers in places like the Leverett Connector, the 128 exit off 93 in Woburn and the Mass Pike entrance to the O’Neil Tunnel. This is when drivers shoot up an empty lane, past all of the cars waiting to exit, and merge in at the very last minute. Some experts say it’s actually the angry driver that refuses to let the late merger enter that causes more problems.
“In an ideal world, if everyone is cooperating, it would be much better off in the long run,” Knodler said referring to the every-other-car merging technique.
IMPROPER ROTARY MERGES
The rotary merge is another tricky situation for Boston drivers. The one above the Mass Pike in Newton is notoriously hair-raising.
“Some people are confused and not knowing what they are doing, and others knowing exactly what they are doing and sort of exploiting the situation. It’s a perfect storm of bad interactions,” Knodler said.
Studies have shown that if drivers could keep a consistent space between cars, rather than tailgating and braking hard, traffic would flow much more smoothly. According to Knodler, that is a problem autonomous vehicles may someday be able to fix.
“If everything was working well in an automated system, we could double the capacity of a roadway like the Massachusetts Turnpike,” he said.
Until then, we’ll have to improve the bad habits, or learn to live with the consequences.