Heavy traffic congestion is one of the most frustrating hallmarks of 21st-century living. Sometimes it’s predictable: the daily consequence of commuting workers or road construction, or sometimes a random accident causes typically easy routes to become massive unmoving jams. Traffic can make many drivers anxious and impatient, which is dangerous considering that this is also when they must be more aware of their position and that of other drivers than usual. As such, it is useful to consider a few helpful tips for driving in heavy traffic.
Exercise Situational Awareness
Any time someone gets in a vehicle, they should be keeping a watchful eye on the road ahead and the other vehicles on either side of them. They should have their stereos at a reasonable volume and their smartphones somewhere they won’t be distracting. They should be following every rule in the handbook by the letter.
In practice, this simply isn’t the case. In optimal driving environments, it often feels easy to get away with being lax without becoming a hazard, and plenty of people are guilty of driving a little unfocused.
In heavy traffic, a moment’s lapse of attention can cause a lot of problems. Glancing down at a text message or trying to find a better radio station costs seconds that are much more valuable when every other car is bumper to bumper. It is important to be as alert to other vehicles, no matter how boring and frustrating it may be. Traffic rarely stays one speed, and there are often sudden stops and other drivers trying to merge into different lanes. Likewise, do everything you can to help people be aware of your intentions. Signal when you need to and maintain as steady a speed as you can.
While it is important to stay aware, it is not necessary to be so alert to the point of anxiousness. A very Zen thing to consider is that everyone, including yourself, is part of the traffic. It is not a localized phenomenon that exists to spite guiltless individuals, it is simply a consequence of the method by which people navigate cities. Take deep breaths, listen to music or podcasts that keep you at ease. If at any point you feel as though you’re on the verge of panic or anger, find a place to exit and park. You’ll be able to step out of your car, and a few moments of separation and movement can be physically and mentally refreshing.
Perhaps one of the most useful tips for driving in heavy traffic is to avoid doing so whenever possible. Even if you aren’t able to watch the traffic reports on the news before getting in your car, there are plenty of apps and mobile tools that can give real-time advice on how to reach your destination quickly. You can purchase a dedicated, networked GPS device, or simply use the navigation apps that are pre-installed on most smartphones. Mounted in a visible but unintrusive location in your vehicle, you can monitor your given route while keeping your eyes on the road. Most of these tools are fed a constant stream of data and can direct you away from heavy congestion.
Technology allows us to avoid additional hazards. If you are alerted to the possibility of a severe storm, for example, it is prudent to consider postponing an unnecessary trip until conditions are safer. Many map applications can also advise you of construction, or average traffic patterns on a daily basis.
Naturally, no amount of preparation will eliminate the possibility of being stuck in heavy traffic, and the same applies to everyone else who finds themselves in it. Be the driver you’d like everyone else to be. Stay predictable, keep an even speed, and signal properly before merging lanes. Behind every windshield is another human being with their own things to stress about. Try not to add to the anxiety of others, be mindful of your own tension, and focus on being safe, not fast.