Driver Knowledge Tests

Should you take short cuts to reduce your journey time?

There are two types of short cuts you can take:

  • Along a different route, like a side road
  • Through a private property such as a supermarket car park.

The purpose of taking a short cut is to reduce your journey time, but do they work and do they make traffic better? In the case of choosing a completely different route, it makes sense if it’s either:

  • quicker for you
  • uses less fuel
  • is less dangerous.

By taking the short cut (or alternative route) you’ll be removing traffic from one route but adding it to another. Whether it’s worthwhile depends on the overall level of traffic.

However, if you are shortcutting through private property such as a petrol station forecourt on a corner where there’s a traffic light, it’s slightly different. There are some potential advantages:

  • You save some time and potentially some fuel through not sitting idling in traffic or crawling slowly
  • Less idling means less pollution (of course, if your engine automatically shuts off when you are stationary, this argument is moot)
  • You feel better about your trip
  • Less traffic on that route does potentially free up the route slightly
  • If there is another motorist behind you that genuinely wants to enter that private property, e.g. to get fuel, they don’t have to wait for you to go the longer way around.

But, there are quite a few disadvantages of taking a shortcut across private property:

  • Driving unnecessarily through private property creates additional wear and tear that the property owner has to pay for, for example, repainting lines, filling in potholes, etc
  • Additional unnecessary traffic through car parks increases the chance of a pedestrian/vehicle collision
  • Additional traffic in a car park increases congestion for those genuinely using it, which causes frustration that could negatively affect the business owners (i.e. people might avoid those businesses rather than go to them)
  • Shortcutting that congestion pinch point doesn’t mean to say that it won’t just move the congestion slightly further on, causing additional delays to vehicles that don’t take the short cut

These types of shortcuts tend not to save much time – perhaps 30 seconds at best. Sometimes they don’t make any difference.

Google Maps and other mapping services that monitor traffic are now rendering shortcuts almost obsolete as they will direct you via the shortest route in real time. However, they don’t know all the little tricks…yet!

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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