Whether you're a true car enthusiast, or you simply drive because it's part of your job or it's just the best way to reach point B from point A, traffic jams are most likely in the top three of things you consider "the bane of your existence" when you're behind the wheel.
What we find more terrifying is that according to some psychology studies, traffic jams, and especially sudden gridlocks are indirectly or partly responsible for a number of sanity-related problems in drivers who are frequently finding themselves in this dreadful situation. Firstly, we should probably summarize what we know so far about traffic jams, to give us a starting point.
– Traffic congestion is one of the main reasons for city pollution and smog in most large cities of the world.
– We know they're a top reason for psychological problems when they are dealt with on regular basis, although it also depends on who is behind the gridlock.
– According to an annual study by the Texas Transport Institute, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours in 2015. The cost for this horrifyingly high number of traffic jams? Oh, just a nice, round, $160 billion, or almost a thousand dollars per each commuter.
– The same 2015 study mentions that on average, each driver has accumulated approximately 42 hours of yearly delays because of traffic jams in the United States. That's almost two whole days in a year!
– Emergency vehicles are unable to reach their destinations as urgently as they could without being stuck in gridlock.
Before putting that in our pipe and smoking it, we should probably think less about how bad traffic is in most countries and more about ways to improve our lives behind the wheel and not only, starting of course with tips to avoid traffic jams. We have assembled a short list of "dos" and "don'ts" on this subject, which we hope will be read and put into action by as many drivers as possible. They are in no particular order.Leaving your car parked
If you can use more efficient alternative modes of travel, like public transportation, leave your pride at home and do it. There's no shame in using the subway, the bus or the tram, despite being the proud owner of a luxurious sedan, SUV or a flashy sports car.
This is especially true if it means you can significantly cut down on your commuting time, protect your sanity and breath better air in the long run. Obviously, this tip is not mandatory if "efficient" public transportation means being forced to sit much too close to the sweaty armpits of a construction worker. Some people actually depend on their personal car to get around, although they're probably a minority.Two wheels are sometimes better than four
In quite a lot of countries, it isn't illegal for a two-wheel vehicle like a motorcycle, scooter or bicycle to travel between the lanes of a road whenever possible, thus short-circuiting the gridlock and sadly getting on the nerves of drivers who can't do the same as you.
If you don't have a motorcycle license and don't plan on getting one, there are plenty of scooters that can be ridden without a license, while the bicycle has the extra advantage of getting you fit while escaping traffic. The only downsides depend on the weather forecast and the availability of a shower at your destination. Also, if your city doesn't have bicycle lanes, it could also be a bit dangerous to split lanes between faster or slower-moving cars.If you lose an hour, you can also win an hour
If you slightly change the schedule of your departure to and from work, you might circumvent the biggest traffic jams of the day. It's a known fact that most of the world's population works from 9.00 AM to 5.00 PM, so the worst gridlocks of the day take place approximately half an hour before and after those times.
Obviously, you would have to leave at least half and hour earlier to work and half an hour later from work in case you want to avoid that. Although in theory it sounds like you lose an hour, you're actually buying yourself time by not sitting in your idling car and instead doing something more productive. The shortest distance between two points isn't always a straight line
One of the most important thing you can do in your everyday commute is pretty straightforward. You should simply try and change your everyday traffic jammed route. It's technically impossible for all roads in a city to be congested at the same time. So, instead of taking the most obvious route, which everyone else is already using, try to think like a trout and go against the flow by using smaller side streets to reach your destination inside the city.
Naturally, it has become increasingly difficult to do that in recent years, as more and more people have started to do it as well. It even started leading to over-clogged side streets on top of main boulevards, but it's still worth a shot. Using a smartphone app like Waze to predict traffic-jammed roads, even though you already know your destination, is also a good idea.Get better informed even before jumping in your car
You should never rely just on your better judgment since you can't predict the future when leaving home. Always listen to the radio for any gridlock announcements so you can plan your route ahead, before actually arriving right in the middle of a traffic jam.
Some road arteries aren't always jam packed with cars, so it's good to know in advance if they're drivable or if you should change your route. A simple fender bender in a major intersection can lead to traffic getting worse on the radius of a few blocks, if not even more.
We know some if not all of these tips are probably nothing new to most people who experience traffic jams on a daily basis, but the trouble is almost no one takes driving advice into account.
Even if they do, they are usually too slow to change their driving strategy in real time and adapt to the situation ahead, even though all of the above tips can be switched between them or used together, depending on which one is better suited at a given time. For those searching for ways to improve their commute and get rid of traffic jams on highways and interstate roads, the only solution – apart from waiting for the proliferation of autonomous cars – is to read our next article about it.