Traffic Patterns, Traffic Jams, and the U.S. Cities with the Worst Congestion

A 13-day traffic jam may be extreme, but you might be surprised at just how many hours most of us spend in the car.

Traffic jams

Think your commute is bad?

Commuters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, could certainly give you a run for your money. Daily traffic stretches between 112 miles and 183 miles, which means it takes the average commuter 2 hours to travel 10 miles.

But Brazilians aren’t the only drivers seeing an increase in traffic. In fact, the number of vehicles in the world nearly doubled between 1990 and 2010. Much of this increase is due to growth in developing countries — where traffic is particularly bad due to lagging infrastructures.

Epic traffic jams

In 2010, drivers on a stretch of the Beijing-Tibet highway were stuck in a traffic jam for 13 days. You read that correctly: 13 days. Believe it or not, there were no reports of road rage (and a few savvy villagers made quite the profit by selling food and water at inflated costs).

Another jam recently occurred during China’s “Golden Week” (a 7-day national holiday) when the government removed all expressway tolls, which led to a 13 percent increase in traffic. In a country of over 1.3 billion people, that’s a pretty major jump. With nothing to do but wait, drivers got pretty creative, doing everything from push-ups to playing tennis in the road.

Traffic in the U.S.

Interestingly, as other countries have seen a rise in the number of cars on the road, the U.S. has seen a slight decrease both in car ownership and traffic congestion. With a bum economy and rising gas prices, it’s no surprise that more people are staying off the roads. But even with a slight decline, the U.S. far surpasses other countries in car ownership. In 2010, over 80 percent of the U.S. population owned a car. Compare that with China where just 5 percent of the population owns a car, or Brazil, where the number is just under 16 percent.

The 10 U.S. cities with the worst traffic

INRIX®, a leading international provider of traffic information and intelligent driver services, released a report on the 10 U.S. cities with the worst traffic. The gridlock may not last 13 days, but INRIX estimates that drivers in these cities spend about 40 hours a year sitting in traffic. Think of what you could do with 40 more hours!

  1. Honolulu, Hawaii
  2. Los Angeles, California
  3. San Francisco, California
  4. New York, New York
  5. Bridgeport, Connecticut
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Seattle, Washington
  8. Austin, Texas
  9. Boston, Massachusetts
  10. Chicago, Illinois

How traffic patterns affect commute times

INRIX also used hundreds of stats to determine general traffic patterns in the U.S.

  • Worst traffic day: Friday
  • Worst morning commute: Tuesday
  • Worst evening commute: Friday
  • Worst hour: Friday 5–6 p.m.
  • Best traffic day: Monday
  • Best morning commute: Friday
  • Best evening commute: Monday
  • Best hour: Friday 6–7 a.m.

Traffic jam must-haves

For most of us, traffic congestion is an unavoidable fact of life. But here are a few traffic jam essentials to help put your downtime to good use.

  • Good tunes — always a must-have
  • Audio books — might as well stimulate the brain a little
  • A Bluetooth — to let people know you’re running late
  • Gas — even idling, you’re gonna burn it
  • Food and water — just make sure they’re easily accessible and car-friendly
  • Exercises — might as well tone up (and stay alert) while you’re sitting
    • Work your arms: put your hands on the steering wheel at the 9 and 3 position and press against the wheel for 5 seconds. Move to another position (like 10 and 2) and repeat.
    • Work your tummy: take a deep inhale. When you exhale, pull your abs toward your spine and hold for 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat until you can repeat no longer.
    • Work your glutes: alternate squeezing your right and left glutes for 3 to 5 seconds.
  • A Zen outlook — traffic jams aren’t fun, but a bad attitude won’t help

Interested in driving conditions for your state? Check out our state pages for legal requirements, coverage options, possible discounts, and other insurance quirks in your neck of the woods.

Related link

Read INRIX’s full traffic report.

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