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What Causes Everyday Freeway Traffic?

Posted in Car Accidents on April 16, 2019

One of the things Dallas is infamous for is bad traffic. Commuters around the country spend, on average, 42 hours of the year sitting in traffic. Congested freeways can cause wasted gas, driver frustration, road rage, and fender benders. Even minor car accidents such as rear-end collisions can cause painful personal injuries like whiplash. Learn what causes daily traffic – and what the government could potentially do to solve the problem.

Overloaded Roads

The main cause of daily highway traffic is too many people on the road. Most major highways in the United States are decades old. Back then, the populations in most major cities were smaller. Highway designers did their best to accommodate current and future levels of traffic, but today many roads simply are not large enough. Overloaded highways in major cities can lead to bumper-to-bumper traffic, as too many vehicles try to funnel through an inadequate number of lanes.

Many city governments have begun construction projects to widen and expand major highway systems. The Texas Department of Transportation – Dallas District, for example, is currently holding public hearings to discuss the widening and reconstruction of U.S. 380. Widening the road could leave more room for drivers without having to wait in line to proceed. This is just one example of many such efforts to accommodate more vehicles on some of the busiest roadways in the region.

Rush Hour

In a city like Dallas, drivers may notice that major highways do just fine at accommodating people…at certain times during a day. Driving through Dallas at 6:00 a.m. will look much different than a few hours later, when most commuters are traveling for work. Traffic congestion typically is a problem because too many people need to drive at the same times each day for work. Both the average workplace and school system requires people to travel and run errands at about the same times each day.

Every major metropolitan region in the world has the same issue with rush hour traffic. To solve this issue, one would need to disrupt the current economic system. More workplaces would need to offer flexible schedules, work-from-home opportunities, or change their operating hours altogether. Although efforts such as carpooling can help reduce the number of people on Dallas’ highways, the only way to solve rush hour completely would be to change the established foundation of society.

Most Popular Way to Travel

Even with the downfall of heavy traffic, most commuters prefer to drive in their own vehicles to and from work rather than take public transportation. This is often for both comfort and convenience. Most employees in Dallas live in rural or low-density areas. To reach these areas by public transportation, many would have to take multiple buses and wake up significantly earlier. Using public transportation may also not be as comfortable as a private car, or seen as safe to some commuters. Private vehicles thus remain the most popular form of transportation.

Inadequate Following Distance

At the heart of stop-and-go traffic is a problem with the amount of space between vehicles. As the space between two vehicles shrinks, the following vehicle has to hit the brakes to avoid a traffic accident. Theoretically, if this space never shrinks, drivers would never have to hit their brakes on highways – and daily traffic would not exist.

Individual drivers can help make the steady flow of traffic smoother by maintaining adequate following distance. Changing driver behaviors to avoid tailgating could prevent drivers from having to come to complete stops, and could relieve a great deal of heavy traffic congestion. It could also prevent fender benders that cause even worse traffic jams. By increasing following distance, just one driver could have a measurable impact on daily highway traffic for everyone else.