There’s not a whole lot on this planet that can cause stress and annoyance quite like getting stuck in traffic. Everyone sets out on their trip, whether it’s a road trip or a quick drive to the market, with good intentions and a rough idea of how long it’s going to take them.
Traffic jams are also a big cause of smog and pollution in the world’s big cities. So preventing traffic jams isn’t just good for your sanity, it’s good for the environment.
For those poor souls that face heavy traffic on a regular basis it can lead to psychological problems.
Not to mention the 3 billion gallons of fuel that traffic congestions cause, or the 7 billon extra travel hours spent, all to the tune of an estimated $160 billion! It all adds up and for the commuter it’s estimated that each drive spends around 42 hours in traffic annually.
If you happen to live in a traffic heavy city then you don’t need me to tell you, “I’ll be there in 20 minutes, depending on traffic… so, I’ll probably see you in an hour and a half.”
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. While you can’t avoid all of the traffic all of the time, you sure can stay ahead of the game.
If you find yourself getting caught in traffic in work then consider changing your departure time. With the most common working time being a 9-5 (plus school drop offs) you’re more likely to get stuck in traffic at 8:30 and 5:30 (unless you live in California and face the 3-6 traffic farce). This tact would also mean leaving work later, sounding like you’re losing out on an hour of your day, but you know you sit in traffic for far longer so you’re still walking away a winner.
Is the shortest distance between two points a straight line? Not always. Consider how many different ways there are for you to get your chosen destination. Not all of those paths can be congested, can they? So whether you’re facing your every day trip to work, or a special road trip, don’t always take the most obvious route. It’s called the obvious route because everybody else is taking it, too. Ideally, you’ll have an escape route so that if you are approaching a traffic situation you can avoid it. There are plenty of traffic apps to choose from that predict traffic jammed roads for you to avoid.
Planning your route is always the best way to avoid congestion. If you have to, plan a few routes so that you can change them up the morning of a big trip. If you’re just heading to work, or to your friend’s new house, then you don’t need to plot multiple routes, just check regularly before setting off. Listening to the traffic in your car while you’re driving is also a smart idea, because it could be clear before you leave and you might still end up right in the middle of a mess.
Assume nothing. Check what activities are happening in the area you will be traveling through, that could slow you down and lead to heavy frustration. Be prepared to adapt. Don’t be that stubborn person who thinks they know best, be that person who gets to where they’re going without massive delays.
We’ve already mentioned traffic apps, which are a great way to stay ahead of the game. We also mentioned listening to the radio so you can keep abreast of any traffic issues as they arise. Using GPS is another great way to stay on top of things. You can look at previous routes you’ve taken, you can also allow family members to keep track of you (and you of them) without disturbing them with texts and calls on a drive- accidents are a prime cause of traffic congestion.
A GPS system that offers live traffic updates is even better, killing two birds with one stone.
You can get updates right to your mobile phone, but be careful with that because using your mobile while driving is illegal in most places, and if it isn’t… it isn’t safe. If you have a system in your vehicle that connects to your phone for safe use, then this could be the way to go for you. It allows you to get the updates you need without being distracted by using your mobile phone.
There are apps that are fueled by user updates to give live traffic updates on accidents and traffic as they are happening. Obviously it depends on what area you live in if there are enough users to make a difference to your life, but if you live in a bigger city then you should find it helpful. Again, if you are going to use something like this then you need a cradle for your phone to avoid being distracted by the technology.
If you are a lone traveler (or there’s just two of you) the best way to avoid traffic is by switching to a motorcycle. There are a lot of locations (see California and the United Kingdom) where it is legal for you to weave through the traffic, allowing you to leave all those stuck in congestion in your wake.
If you are travelling on a holiday weekend it’s safe to say that all bets are off and no matter how much planning you use you will very likely still end up in traffic at some point. Some things are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advice from the steps above to do your best to avoid it.