If you are a frequent road user like myself, then you would have probably experienced bad traffic congestion due to an accident sometime before. This is of course, not restricted to car drivers, but extends out to all road users such at motorbike riders, taxi/bus passengers, truck drivers, etc… As a road user, the last thing anyone wants is to be involved in an accident, but regardless of how cautious we are, it still happens.
Here in Singapore, whenever such an unfortunate situation arises, the Expressway Monitoring and Advisory System (EMAS) will usually identify a situation within minutes and dispatch the relevant teams such as the Traffic Police, Emergency Rescue and/or towing services. Compared to larger countries where accessibility may be a concern, or less developed countries where manpower training or equipment may be lacking, the Singapore system works like a well oiled machine, saving lives in the process.
However, such incidents also usually result in problematic congestion which are on certain occasions, completely unnecessary. I say unnecessary because there are two very simple solutions, either which can potentially save everyone stuck in the bottleneck a significant amount of time. Which if I may add, is the most important resource everyone can seldom afford (aside from lives of course).
As all vehicles big and small wish to bypass the affected area in the shortest time and distance possible, there will be a sudden rush to squeeze into unobstructed lanes. Take the above image for example, an accident occurred on lane one and lane two, causing the three lane carriage way to bottleneck to lane three (extreme left). Simple math dictates that the time required to clear past the affected area be multiplied by at least three times. The situation is often made worst by the fact that many who pass-by are curious (nosey), thus slowing down the entire flow.
The solution to this problem is simply for two things to happen. Firstly, to be less curious and nosey. So when passing by an accident spot, be more cautious and courteous of your immediate surroundings, and not to be too curious about the accident. Secondly, try to be more gracious and allow a one vehicle at a time, take turn flow system to work. I remember when I was getting my driver’s license back in Canada when I was sixteen, not just learning but experiencing first hand on numerous occasions, how drivers give way to each other one vehicle at a time. Take for example a three lane carriage way bottlenecked into two available lanes, vehicles squeezing in from the blocked lane are graciously allowed into the lane that is available, one vehicle at a time. This take turn flow system method allows for a more efficient way of clearing traffic one vehicle at a time. Of course, the challenge being that each individual road user on an unobstructed lane will need to give way to at least one vehicle moving in from an obstructed lane.
Understanding that the abovementioned solution may not alwags necessarily work well, as it relies heavily on every single road user to be patient and gracious (a seriously lacking quality in the modern age), an alternative (or additional) solution will be for either the EMAS or Traffic Police to deploy qualified personnel to direct traffic. This is of course, a manpower intensive solution as solving the congestion as well as saving lives should without doubt, be the priority. Having said that, for less crucial situations, having a qualified personnel direct traffic can significantly reduce the congestion time, especially since he/she will be responsible for ensuring vehicles move accordingly.
Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules (or laws) that can dictate how road users mitigate traffic congestion. The best solutions will be for road users to put themselves in the shoes of others, and to have higher levels of patience and graciousness.
“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” – Stephen Hawking