Heavy traffic: Safely and stress-free

Heavy traffic: Safely and stress-free

The daily drive to and from work in heavy traffic can be difficult and stressful. Good driving habits will help you manage it safely and calmly.

28. 5. 2020 Škoda World

Modern driving assist functions make life easier for drivers, in heavy urban and suburban traffic and elsewhere, but it is the driver who remains the most important safety device in the car. Advice from the experts will help you cope better with stressful commutes and, above all, keep you safe.

Like all journeys, the drive to work needs planning. That may sound odd, given that you are supposed to be at work at a particular time. But even if you have to be at work at eight, that doesn't mean you don't need to plan the trip.

“Try to avoid the busiest times when traffic is heaviest. Get to know your route. Sometimes it’s enough to leave half an hour earlier, or half an hour later, and all of a sudden the traffic is moving much more smoothly," says Karel Mulač, head of the Traffic Safety Research team at ŠKODA AUTO. He adds that your planning should take account of the season as well. “Scraping ice off your windows in the morning can hold you up, and lots of people have found out to their cost that it’s not a good idea to hurry on icy roads,” he reminds us.

Assistants will watch out, but ultimately it’s up to you

If you do have to set out into heavy traffic in the morning or evening rush hour, pay proper attention to your driving even if you know the route. That’s the most important safety advice. All you need apart from that is good driving habits. “The key good habits include keeping a safe distance, whether you’re on a high-speed ring road or crawling along in gridlock in the centre,” says Mulač. A safe distance gives you enough time to react to the unexpected. “You should have a distance of two seconds between you and the car in front when visibility’s good, and four seconds when it’s bad. If you’re not moving, you should be able to see the wheels of the car in front,” Mulač says. Don’t rely on adaptive speed control, even though it’s useful when keeping your distance.

Karel Mulač
Traffic safety research, ŠKODA AUTO

Keep a close eye on everything going on around you and, above all, in front of you, even on routine and often slow journeys in heavy traffic. But don’t just focus on the car directly in front – try to get an idea of what's happening further ahead. “Knowing what’s going on lets you avoid obstacles and get moving in good time so you don’t obstruct others,” Mulač says. If you keep a safe distance and know what’s going on around you, you won’t need functions like Front Assist or City Emergency Brake, which help prevent collisions with the car in front or pedestrians you don’t notice.

Front Assist – A system designed to monitor the distance from the vehicle ahead, including automatic slowing down and braking, and to warn the driver of the danger of collision or, if a collision is inevitable, minimise its consequences by braking.

No surprises

Behave predictably when you’re in traffic. This is always good advice, but in heavy traffic it’s doubly important. So check your mirrors, so you don't need to rely on the Side Assist system that warns you about vehicles as far as 70 metres behind you.

Use your indicators in good time and correctly. “When turning off, the proper behaviour is to indicate first, then start to brake for the manoeuvre,” says Mulač, reminding us about a good habit that many drivers forget. But don’t dawdle over manoeuvres when your indicator is on: if you wait too long when changing lane, for example, you can confuse the other drivers and make them slow down for no reason.

Expect the unexpected

Keep in mind that even if you are following all the rules, that doesn’t mean that everybody else is. So drive defensively, keep your eyes open, and try to anticipate what others will do. “If you assimilate good driving habits, you’ll find it easier to notice drivers who drive badly, and you’ll be better prepared to react to any unpredictable manoeuvres,” Karel Mulač says. “Expect the unexpected” is the next key piece of advice.

In any case, try to stay calm and focused behind the wheel. “Letting your mind wander can have unwanted consequences,” Mulač adds. Don’t get distracted by your mobile phone, kids on the back seat or even the recollection of an unpleasant chat with your boss. “Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But drivers who are constantly aware of the need to concentrate find it easier to ignore distractions,” the road safety expert emphasises.

This awareness will make you able to drive more smoothly and safely. The process will become second nature to you and your drive will be calmer, which means safer. So the next time you head out into rush-hour traffic, leave your worries behind you and concentrate on the driving. This will help you improve your driving habits with every journey. That’s beneficial for you, and ultimately for other road users as well.