Being observant on the road . . . or not

I found this video clip fascinating.  It’s a traffic camera recording of a buckled road in Minnesota.  Watch how some attentive drivers see it in time to slow down;  their caution warns those behind them, so that strings of traffic form as a number of cars slow down (in the fast lane) to negotiate the obstacle.  Other cars’ drivers are clearly looking further ahead, and don’t even notice what is effectively a speed-bump in the road ahead of them.  Their cars are launched into the air, and land with teeth-rattling thumps.

I wouldn’t have liked to be on that road at that time.  Things had the potential to get rather too interesting for comfort!



  1. What I find most interesting is the fact that the right lane slowed down too despite the lack of any obstacle. Such things are how we get pointless traffic jams.

  2. I helped repair a section of paving like that years ago. Unfortunately, a young woman was passing over the section of paving, when it buckled. The buckle caused an 8 inch ledge between her front and rear wheels. She was killed when she lost control, and the car tumbled.

  3. The drivers that refused to pass over the buckle are amusing. It looked no worse than any speed hump or traffic calming bump that I have driven over. OTOH, I have in-laws just like that. They'll swerve all over the road to avoid a pothole or even a manhole cover.

  4. From experience from patrolling freeways here in CA, some of those oblivious drivers are using a cell phone while driving. It was amazing to observe just how little of the road and traffic was actually noticed by cell using drivers. From counting, about 40% of drivers during commute hours were on the phone, in the early 00's. That was phones held to their ears. I had no way to determine the number of handsfree use.

    One of the more spectacular incidents was watching a large, lifted pickup, driving ahead of a gaggle with a good distance to the group ahead of him, drive over a full size extension ladder that lay across several lanes. It was untouched until he hit it dead center, and launched his truck maybe two feet upwards, and a couple truck lengths of air, at about 70 mph. The look on his face was priceless. It looked like he held onto the phone, at least during the launch.

    He neither saw the ladder, nor my truck, lit up like a Christmas store window display, sitting on the shoulder near the ladder.

  5. Chris:

    "What I find most interesting is the fact that the right lane slowed down too despite the lack of any obstacle. Such things are how we get pointless traffic jams."

    Although there didn't seem to be a vertical separation, the camera showed a pavement split running across the #2 lane. It can be difficult to judge these dimensions while approaching, depending on the actual particulars, and how high your vehicle sits. I think they were being prudent to slow down. If the damage suddenly worsens while negotiating it, slower is usually better/safer.

  6. As for the right lane slowing, it's a prudent thing for a driver to do if s/he sees the other lanes slowing to crawl speed. After all, you don't know what the issue is and abrupt lane changes, loss of control incidents, or the obstacle entering your lane are all possible.

    This is an engineering failure, by the way. The expansion joints in PCC pavements and the flexible nature of ACC are supposed to prevent this type of thing.

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