How to Avoid Contributing to Traffic Congestion

If you drive frequently, traffic congestion can be a major daily headache. With a few simple driving techniques, however, you can be part of the solution. Being a safe driver can help speed up the flow of traffic, but you can also take alternative transportation, such as buses or bikes. You can even plan your route and trips strategically to reduce the time you are on the road, helping relieve the burden on other drivers.


EditDriving Safely in Traffic

  1. Maintain a gap between cars. Every time you tap your brakes, the cars behind you will do the same. This can cause a ripple effect for miles down the road. Try to keep a gap between you and the car ahead of you. If another car slows down or tries to merge, you should have enough room to slow down without braking suddenly.[1]
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    • Keep at least two or three seconds between you and the car in front of you. This means that it should take you two or three seconds at your current speed to reach the other car.[2]
  2. Stay at a consistent speed. Try to stay at the speed limit, or go at the speed of traffic. If you need to slow down, take your foot off the gas, and do not brake unless you need to. In many cases, if you keep a gap between cars, you may be able to slow down without braking.[3]
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    • When there’s an accident or a breakdown on the side of the road, do not slow down to look. Instead, keep going at the rate of traffic.[4]
    • Cruise control can help you maintain a steady speed on the highway.
  3. Avoid changing lanes too often. The more you change lanes, the more other cars may have to slow down to accommodate you. While you may sometimes need to move over, try changing lanes only when necessary.[5]
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  4. Allow other drivers to merge into your lane. By letting cars in the merge lane come into your lane, you’re helping the flow of traffic. If you see cars trying to merge, allow a gap between you and the car ahead of you so that they have room to enter.[6]
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  5. Pay attention to the road conditions. Stay alert by scanning ahead as far as you can. Remain aware of what is happening around you. Watch for road hazards, accidents, bottlenecks, or other problems along the road.[7]
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    • Many highways have signs that will alert you of delays or traffic jams. You can either prepare to slow down or find an alternate route.
  6. Avoid taking your eyes off the road. Do not text, read the news, check your social media page, or take your eyes off of traffic, even if traffic has stopped dead. Always watch what is happening in front of you. You never know when traffic will start moving again.
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    • If you are bored, turn on music or try a podcast.
  7. Pull over quickly and completely if you have a problem. If your car begins to break down, move to the slow lane, slow down, and pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Turn on your hazard lights, and use your cell phone to get help immediately.[8]
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    • If you are on the side of a busy highway, you should remain in your car. If you must exit, exit on the passenger’s side to avoid getting hit by a car.

EditTaking Alternative Transit

  1. Carpool to work. Ask your coworkers if they would like to start a carpool arrangement. Every member of the carpool can take turns picking up each other and driving to work. This reduces the number of cars on the road while letting you bond with your coworkers.[9]
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    • If you can’t find people to carpool at work, you might be able to find a group online or through an app, such as Scoop or Rideshare.
    • Some cities may have express lanes that only carpools can use. Not only does this cut down on traffic, but it also gets you to work faster!
  2. Take the bus. Check to see if there any bus stops near your home, work, or major shopping centers. Instead of driving, you can take the bus to get around. You may even be able to buy an unlimited bus pass for a certain amount of time.[10]
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    • Many local transits have apps that will tell you when the next bus is coming. They may even locate your nearest bus stop or help you plan a route.
  3. Ride the rails. If your city has a subway or train, you might consider getting a pass so that you can ride it to work or shopping. Subways can get busy too, so leave a little early so that you can get where you need to go. This is a great option for people who live in suburbs outside of a major city.[11]
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  4. Walk or bike to work. Walking or riding a bicycle are both great ways of getting to your destination without contributing to traffic. Not only will this take cars off the road, but it will improve your health and help the environment as well! It is also a much cheaper way to get around.
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    • If you are riding a bike, obey all traffic laws, and use the bike lanes where you can.

EditReducing Your Commute

  1. Live closer to your work. If you can, try to find a home that is closer to your work or to major shopping centers. This will cut down the time you are in the car. It can also make it possible to walk or bike to your destination instead of driving.[12]
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  2. Work from home if you can. If your job allows it, try working from home one or two days a week. This will prevent you from having to drive into the office, which will eliminate your commute entirely for the day.[13]
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  3. Do all of your errands at once. Plan your errands carefully so that you only need to make one trip to get what you need each week. This will reduce the amount of trips you need to take and the length of time you spend on the road.[14]
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    • Make a list of things you need, and post it to a fridge or door. If you run out of something, write it down right away so that you do not forget it on your list.
    • Try to do your errands on the way home from work or school. This will help you avoid making a separate trip.
  4. Take an alternate route. Check the traffic report either online or on the morning news to see what routes are jammed. If your usual route is busy, try to find a different way to get to work. Most GPS systems will warn you about traffic, and they can also help you find a different route.[15]
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    • There are many apps, such as Waze or Intrix, that will give you traffic results as you drive. If a jam develops as you’re driving, they can change your route for you.[16]
  5. Travel on off-peak hours. Major roads typically have rush hour periods where you’re likelier to encounter traffic. To help reduce the burden, try travelling outside of these hours. Plan your errands and tasks for off-peak times, and leave early for work if possible.[17]
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    • The hour between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. is usually very busy, as people are going to work or school.[18]
    • Afternoon rush hour in most places occurs between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. because people are leaving work to return home.
    • Some places may experience a rush around lunchtime as well.


  • Drive courteously. If you see another car trying to change lanes or merge, let them.
  • Always keep your eyes on the road.


  • Even if you drive safely, circumstances can change quickly on the road. Always be alert, and use your best judgment when driving in traffic.
  • Do not text, put makeup on, or read the newspaper even if traffic is moving very slowly.

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EditSources and Citations

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