Byron Carlson Petri & Kalb, LLC | attorneys at law

How phantom traffic jams can pose the risk of traffic violations

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2023 | Traffic Violations

“Phantom traffic” refers to a phenomenon where traffic inexplicably slows down or stops, possibly due to a sudden brake by a single driver, an accident or construction zone. This ripple effect, often caused by one driver’s abrupt actions, disrupts the smooth flow of traffic and can be a source of major frustration for motorists.

In Missouri, phantom traffic can escalate the risk of traffic violations in a few significant ways:

  1. It can cause impatience or frustration, prompting aggressive driving behaviors like speeding or tailgating.
  2. It can lead to distraction or boredom, compelling drivers to resort to activities such as using their phones. This distraction could compromise focus on the road, break traffic laws and amplify the risk of accidents.
  3. It can trigger confusion or panic, causing drivers to make errors such as sudden braking or rapid acceleration. These mistakes could violate traffic laws and may provoke collisions or injuries.

Such impatience, distraction or confusion can lead to dramatic actions that not only violate traffic laws but also jeopardize road safety. However, tailgating could be the most problematic source for phantom traffic jams. In fact, research suggests that if drivers maintain an equal distance from the cars in front of and behind them—a method called ‘bilateral control’—it could reduce traffic jams. This approach could not only lessen drivers’ risk of traffic violations and congestion but also potentially double travel speed.

A duty to prioritize the safety of everyone on the road

Under Missouri law, every driver has a duty to drive in a careful and prudent manner and to exercise the highest degree of care. During a phantom traffic jam, this means obeying speed limits, maintaining safe distances, signaling clearly and avoiding risky behavior. Risky driving behavior can lead to traffic violations for careless driving, reckless driving, speeding, blocking traffic and other moving violations. Following these guidelines can reduce traffic violations and accidents, making driving safer and more enjoyable. However, failure to comply may result in traffic tickets and fines.