What is the best way to drive on long country roads?

My weekly trip to my network meeting at Refer On in Sudbury has got me thinking about traffic again. 

When I travel between Braintree and Sudbury on a clear day I enjoy the flowing bends. I like the freedom. It reminds me of riding a motorbike. 

Going to Sudbury at 6.15am is always far nicer than returning at 9.15am. By the return journey the traffic has always built up. 

Traffic on the other side of the road is nearly always in convoys. A vehicle will normally be holding up a line of traffic. There will then be a long stretch of clear road perhaps the odd car between queues and then another line.

There have been times I have driven and put myself under pressure to overtake and there have been times I have been relaxed and just driven at the speed of the car in front. 

So what is the best tactic? That all depends on what you want to achieve doesn’t it?

Lets say you want to get to the destination as quickly as possible. There is a road that runs parallel and is less used. It avoids having to go through Halstead but instead goes through a couple of built up areas. If you feel traffic is bad on the main road you could take the alternative route. Timing the journeys I have never made the average time quicker by going the alternative way. I do get more enjoyment from the route however and it can be less busy but you can still find another line of traffic to crawl behind.

If you stick to one route you are then left with trying to overtake at every opportunity. Some days I have seen cars overtake me and the car I am crawling behind and they disappear off into the distance and yet when it comes to the next town I am still only a car behind them. Other times I have seen them disappear off into the distance and never seen them again. But how far do they get?

One day I left a meeting in front of a friend. I got passed a car he didn’t and did as much overtaking as I could. I don’t know how he drove but at the end of the route I was 3 cars in front. I had made no progress at all and caused myself a lot of stress.

My journey time only normally changes by 1 or 2 minutes on a 25minute journey whether I am trying to overtake or just relaxing.

Overtaking can lead to marginal savings in time but they are small. If time can be saved it maximises your chances of getting their quicker but at what cost?

When overtaking on country lanes there is an increased risk of an accident. There are junctions and bends and you have to be a confident driver or you a risking the lives of others. I have noticed the pressure of looking for safe opportunities does raise my adrenaline so I am putting myself under stress. If you are stressed you are in Flight and Fight mode and that means your critical thinking has been reduced therefore you are more likely to misjudge something or make a mistake.

The pleasure of being released from the queue is appealing to me but often it is short lived as the next queue is only a little way up the road.

My conclusion therefore is it is safest and more healthy to sit in the queues. If you do get a clear piece of road and an opportunity to overtake you can take it but it probably doesn’t pay to be actively looking for the overtaking position.

So how do I entertain myself when stuck in a queue? Well a) I have music on b) I switch to thinking about the cost of travel. I watch how other drivers drive so close to the car in front they are forever braking and accelerating. I therefore try to avoid unnecessary braking and aim to be more gentle on using the accelerator. I notice I tend to over-react to brake lights in front and brake before I have thought so now I remember I have more distance and use my experience more.

It entertains me and reduces the risk of frustration. Perhaps you can find other methods to entertain yourself. The more choice you have the more relaxed you will be when you arrive safely at your destination.

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