What with all the talk about traffic congestion and ways to combat it by walking/windsurfing/levitating to work and back, as opposed to driving, I thought I would chime in with what I feel is a major contribution to the current problem with traffic in built up areas (and hopefully throw in a few James Joycian sentences into the mix {with maybe a touch more punctuation}): the automatic transmission.

Automatic transmissions in cars have been with us for a long time now (since before WWII) but are now used at an unprecedented level. My main gripe with the device is that for the most part (particularly with a ‘slush-box’ {torque converter} as opposed to the relatively new ‘dual clutch’ devices) when one takes their foot off the accelerator the centrifugal clutch engages, causing the car to coast. The sensation appears to cause most drivers to feel the need to apply the brake instead.

This incessant use of the brake pedal causes drivers behind the aforementioned drivers to apply their brake pedal in sympathy, causing a flow-on effect of brake use to greater or lesser degrees of effectiveness. This contributes immensely to the ‘worm’ or ‘slinky’ effect found on major thoroughfares where traffic ends up stopped for no adequately explored reason than people driving with their foot constantly feathering the brake to make up for the lack of compression braking that is part and parcel of the manual transmission. This is particularly true of cars travelling downhill, even on gentle declines.

Please remember that as well as ‘D’ mode you have at least a ‘1’ and ‘2’ as well. You paid for the blessed things; use them—especially down hills! These wonderful, much maligned slots on your gear stick can be used to overcome the lack of compression braking and allow you to adequately decelerate or maintain steady velocity on declines without using the brakes and causing consternation to those behind you. Traffic times would be decimated (in the literal sense), I feel, by this act alone. These modes can be used effectively going uphill, also.

Those of you bleating about fuel efficiency when using ‘1’ or ‘2’ due to higher engine speeds can rest assured that if you don’t have your foot on the throttle, you aren’t using fuel (at least not appreciably any more fuel), even if the motor is revving its head off. Modern motors like to rev; you aren’t going to break it. You are being more fuel efficient in a lower gear at higher revs with part throttle going up a hill as you are in a higher gear at lower revs at full throttle.

That said I’m off to get into my new, automatic car.


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