What Causes Traffic & How to Avoid It?

Vehicles stuck in traffic.

Traffic jams are a commuter's nemesis and a puzzle for many drivers. The average U.S. motorist spent 51 hours stuck in traffic in 2022, a number that keeps rising every year (INRIX 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard).

So, why does traffic happen? Is there any way to avoid it altogether? Whether you’re a daily commuter or only drive a few times a week, understanding the causes and mitigation strategies can make your journeys smoother and safer.

Why Do We Get Traffic?

Numerous factors contribute to road congestion, leading to two primary types of traffic jams: recurring and nonrecurring. Recurring traffic is the predictable result of increased vehicle numbers, such as during rush hour, whereas nonrecurring traffic stems from unforeseen events, including accidents or road obstructions.

Man frustrated that he is stuck in traffic.

Reasons we get traffic include:

  1. Accidents

Car accidents are a primary catalyst for traffic congestion. A serious accident can block the road, require emergency services, and may even cause traffic to be rerouted.

On the other hand, even a minor crash moved to the side of the road can make drivers slow down a lot, which disrupts traffic flow. In fact, drivers tend to slow down to look at the accident, a phenomenon known as rubbernecking.

  1. Work Zones

Construction and maintenance zones often result in fewer lanes available for vehicles, inevitably slowing down traffic flow as vehicles are forced to merge. As a result, drivers may encounter stop-and-go conditions on the road.

  1. Road Debris

Items on the road, from fallen cargo to debris from crashes, can lead to abrupt traffic slowing as drivers maneuver to avoid them. In addition, workers clearing these obstructions can further contribute to traffic slowdowns.

  1. Rush Hour

Rush hour occurs when the bulk of the workforce commutes to or from their jobs, resulting in higher volumes of people on the roads. For instance, rush hour traffic contributes an additional 14 minutes to the average American's daily commute, a number that rises to 17 minutes if you live in highly populated places such as North Texas.

  1. Phantom Traffic Jams

A phenomenon that occurs without an apparent cause is phantom traffic jams. This type of traffic jam happens when one driver slows down, leading to a ripple effect that causes congestion.

  1. Bottlenecks

Bottlenecks are areas on the road that reduce the flow of traffic, creating delays and congestion. Common examples of bottlenecks include toll booths, where cars must slow down or stop to pay, and merger points, where multiple lanes of traffic combine into fewer lanes.

How to Avoid Traffic

While completely avoiding traffic might not always be possible, here are some strategies that can help minimize the time you spend in jams:

  1. Avoid Peak Hours

If your schedule is flexible, consider adjusting your travel times to steer clear of the day's peak hours. By leaving just a few minutes earlier or later, you can avoid the rush and enjoy a more relaxed commute.

  1. Map Out Alternative Routes

Familiarize yourself with different routes to your destination. Knowing several alternatives can help you quickly adapt if you find yourself heading towards a congestion hotspot.

  1. Stay Informed with Traffic Reports

Before you head out, be sure to check the traffic reports online. You can also use the radio for this. This precaution can help you identify and avoid areas with accidents or heavy congestion, saving you time and stress.

  1. Use GPS for Updates

Modern GPS systems and apps offer real-time traffic updates and can reroute you to save time. Make use of these technologies to stay one step ahead of the traffic.

Get in Touch with Our Car Accident Attorneys

Understanding the causes of traffic and employing strategies to avoid it can not only save time but also increase your safety on the road. Despite our best efforts though, accidents happen, sometimes as a direct result of traffic.

If you've been injured in a car accident, it's essential to know your rights and options. Our team of experienced car accident attorneys at MAS Law can help you navigate through these challenging times and help you pursue the compensation you deserve. With decades of experience behind us, we're well-equipped to assist you.

Contact us at (972) 460-9339 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.


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