Jam is not like marmite. Not many of us hate it, then again not many of us love it either. But there is one type of jam that is an exception to this rule in the sense that we all hate it. But this particular variety of jam is not designed for spreading on bread – and does not go with butter. It’s traffic jam – yuk, a most unpleasant accompaniment to any journey.

But here is some good news. Apparently, the amount of traffic congestion on British roads in the first six months of this year was 12 per cent down on the same period last year. It is especially good news when you consider this: maybe the decline in this type of jam provides the first taste of economic recovery.

According to a new report from the Royal Automobile Club Foundation and Trafficmaster, not only is traffic congestion across Britain down, but so too was the average speed on Britain’s motorways. During the first six months of this year our average speed was 62.2 mph, as drivers slowed down in order to try and conserve fuel. (Presumably that is the average speed in open driving; don’t know about you, but the average yours truly manages on the M25 must be nearer 10 mph.)

Georgina Read at Trafficmaster comments: “Our traffic monitoring network shows the start of a change in driving patterns and behaviour over the past six to twelve months. Average motorway speeds have reduced, as has congestion – this indicates a reduction in the volume of vehicles, especially HGVs, travelling on the roads. One obvious explanation for this is that rising fuel prices and general economic concerns are making people think carefully about how they drive. The upshot of less traffic is a drop in congestion levels, meaning motorists can get from A to B quicker while travelling at lower and more economical speeds. It really is a case where less haste can mean more speed.”

The northern sector of the M25 saw the most dramatic decrease in congestion, said the report, with the “sector between junctions 21 and 31, [seeing] a 26 per cent reduction in traffic jams over the 12 month period from June 2007 to June 2008 compared to same period the year before.”

The truth is, the RAC/Trafficmaster report confirms something that has been on the cards for some time. When oil is priced north of $100 it is too expensive for people. It was inevitable demand would fall – and the fall in road congestion is just one example of this happening. The fall in the sales of cars in the US – especially larger cars – is another example of this. And the increase in sales of more fuel efficient Hondas in the US, another example.

This is why the price of oil is bound to fall. And if oil does fall back to $70 by 2010, as has been predicted here, we will all feel a lot better off – and maybe from that base, economic recovery can begin.

Costs rise too high in a boom, this causes recession – which forces prices down too far, which leads to the next boom. The force behind this pattern is the true bread and butter of economic cycles.

© Investment & Business News 2013