Coping with Congestion: How to drive safely on crowded streets


We’ve all been there – bumper to bumper, bristling because of those seemingly endless brake lights.

Although congested roads are a chronic problem in cities such as Los Angeles – ranked the nation’s worst place for traffic delays by the Texas Transportation Institute – gridlock happens just about everywhere.

It happens before and after work. It happens when children are heading to and from school. It happens during holidays when people are bustling to the store or visiting family.

So how can you stay safe when traffic is at its worst? Here are some pointers, and a little perspective, about how to drive safely during peak traffic hours.

Did you know?

  • Congested roads delayed commuters an average of 34 hours in 2010. That’s up from 14 hours in 1982, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. When you factor wasted time and gasoline into those delays, the cost is about $750 per traveler per year.
  • Although motorists generally cite traffic congestion as one of the nation’s leading transportation issues, car crashes have a far greater economic impact on society. The AAA Foundation found that crashes in 2009 were three times more costly than all the wasted time and fuel of bumper-to-bumper traffic: $299.5 billion, compared with $97.7 billion.
  • The Los Angeles freeways are more congested than anywhere else in the United States, according to the INRIX National Traffic Scorecard. The next-worst cities included New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Dallas.

How to stay safe:

Plan ahead: Allow extra time for driving when traffic, for whatever reason, is expected to be heavy. You will be less likely to tailgate, weave across lanes or vent frustration on other drivers when you aren’t pressed for time.

Minimize distractions: If you plan to drive on congested streets, make sure that your attention is on the road. Avoid behaviors such as talking on a cell phone, sending text messages, eating messy foods or putting on make-up in the car. Your chances of being involved in a crash will drop considerably by taking those steps.

Avoid rubbernecking: Just as there are distractions inside a vehicle, there can be distractions outside a vehicle as well. Don’t let your attention wander when passes a crash scene, a window display or a pretty girl. You may find yourself kissing the bumper of the car in front of you.

Relax: Don’t take unnecessary risks to shorten your commute by a few minutes. You could end up spending a lot more time beside the road. Take it easy, be courteous and know that you’ll get to your destination safer and less stressed.

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