Research shows tailgating at red light doesn't get through intersections faster

Published: Nov. 29, 2017 at 10:04 PM EST
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New research at Virginia Tech shows a common practice behind the wheel is unnecessary.

Following tests at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, researchers found pulling up close to a car in front of you at a traffic light does not get you through quicker.

Drone video showed that no matter how far back the second car is, it gets through the intersection at the same time.

Jonathan Boreyko is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech focused on Fluid Mechanics.

He said, "If you get really close an tailgate at a red light, it feels good because you're as close as possible to the light, so when it turns green you do have the least possible distance to travel. But the downside people don't always think about is you're going to have to melt, is what I call it, you're melting from a solid phase that you've jammed into back into a liquid phase that's comfortable for actual driving. During that melting or lag effect, you lose a lot of time waiting for that space to regain."

He explained the testing, “We varied the bumper-to-bumper spacing between cars by a factor of 20 and saw virtually no change in how much time it took for the cars to pass through the intersection when the light turned green. The results mean there’s no point in getting closer to the car in front of you when traffic comes to a stop,” he said.

He went onto say drivers should be farther back than just being able to see the bumper of the car ahead of them, as is normally recommended.

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