The National Safety Commission Alerts

Safety is No Accident. Visit the National Safety Commission - America's Safety Headquarters for driver safety information, auto recalls and teen safe driver tips.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Causes Traffic Jams?

Nation’s Largest Cities Plagued by Too Many Cars in One Place

If you've ever wondered how many hours you've spent sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M University has an answer for you: each year, you might spend as much as two weeks in your car.

According to the 2007 study, in 28 urban areas such as Boston, Orlando, San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, each year drivers spent an entire work week sitting in traffic. In the country's yardstick for traffic congestion, Los Angeles, it could be up to nearly two weeks.

Traffic has serious consequences beyond your mental health. The approximate cost of traffic for 2005 was over $78 billion (in fuel and lost time), and that does not include factors such as environmental damage or health costs due to pollution. Here’s a startling fact: Americans bought 2.9 billion extra gallons of gas just to sit in traffic. The typical cost to an individual driver was $710 annually.

Traffic congestion can be influenced by many factors, but the basic reason is that the number of drivers attempting to use the same road is so great that it goes beyond the road's capacity to handle cars. In other words, traffic is caused by too many cars in one place. Unfortunately, the fundamental reasons for too many cars in one place at one time are more complex. Hundreds of hours and millions of dollars in funding are required by University departments and civil engineers to understand how traffic congestion develops and what can be done about it.

Civil engineers, city planners, politicians, environmental advocacy groups, homeowner associations, and the general population can have considerable influence on how we tackle traffic congestion. Since almost every proposed method of addressing it carries a hefty price tag, raising the question of who pays the traffic bill is a very political and sensitive issue.

For more information about driver safety, The National Safety Commission and Lowest Price Traffic School offer safe teen driving resources for new drivers and their parents.

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