If you live in a city and have a 9 to 5 job, you know what I mean when I say that commuting in traffic is one of the most frustrating daily routines. A few years of having to drive in traffic almost daily, and I've found myself developing a few tricks that ease the pain of the hours wasted stuck in traffic.
1. Find alternate routes.
If you are reading this post, that means you have access to a computer. Use Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Live Maps, or Mapquest, and find 2 or 3 alternate routes (highway and otherwise). These can be lifesavers if there is an accident or roadwork on your main route. I also like to find alternates that fork off my main route for unexpected emergencies (accidents blocking all lanes, for example) in my main route.
2. Leave home earlier.
You can save yourself a lot of aggravation if you leave home a few minutes earlier. Usually I leave home so I can get to work half an hour to an hour early. This saves me the stress of the morning rush hour, I'm not worried about getting to work late, and I have some alone time at my desk, where I can have breakfast while reading a the news, or have some good extra quality work time with no one in the office to bother me.
3. Find patterns in the traffic schedule.
Usually rush hours happens in bursts, as employees leave their offices at different times (usually between 4 pm and 5 pm). For example, in my case I have found that I can avoid street traffic before getting in the highway if I leave the office between 4:20pm and 4:40 pm (remember I get to the office earlier, so I can clock out earlier) or between 5:35pm and 5:45pm.
4. Keep an afternoon snack in the car.
Even worse than getting stuck in traffic: getting stuck in traffic and being hungry. A power bar or snack bar is usually good, they are easy to open and easy to handle and eat while you are driving.
5. Know yourself and know your needs.
In my case, this ties in with number 4. I know that I get angry and pissy when I am hungry and tired, so I get a small snack and a caffeinated soda for the ride.
6. Drive comfortably.
If during winter, take your coat off. If in summer, turn the air conditioning on. Take your wallet out of your back pocket. Turn your radio on to your favourite music station / talk station. Basically, if you are going to sit in the car for a good chunk of time, why not be as comfortable as possible?
7. Your car sound system is your friend.
Turn on the radio and listen to your favourite music or talk shows, or listen to your favorite CD's. Personally, I like talk radio or listening to my favourite podcasts that I burn on CD (Mysterious Universe and Skeptics' Guide to the Universe). The more you're entertained, the faster time will seem to go by.
8. Be courteous to your fellow drivers.
Following these simple rules of the road will save you and others aggravation, and prevent accidents:
- If you're driving on the right lane, let cars on the entry ramp merge.
- Use your turn signals, they're no just for decoration.
- If you'd rather drive slow, do not sit on the left lane and let cars pass you on the right.
- If at night, dawn, dusk or bad weather, turn on your lights.
- Keep a safe distance. One of my worst pet peeves is when people ride my ass on the highway.
- Do not stop to look at accidents, specially if they are on the other side of the road, it slows everyone down and you can cause an accident yourself!
- Follow directions are read road signs. Nothing more aggravating than having to let into your lane the idiot that did not realize in time that the left lane is closed to roadwork.
9. Middle lanes are faster.
The left lane is full of idiots that slow down to catch their exit. The right lane is full of idiots that do not know how to merge.
10. Avoid driving behind large semis.
Driving behind large trucks is not only dangerous because they cannot see what's behind them, but it also increases the uncomfortable feeling of being boxed in.
11. Look around.
If you like to people watch, traffic is a grate opportunity to observe the most varied bunch of people in the wild. If you like cars, like I do... well... you are surrounded by cars. Just remember, you still need to pay attention to the road.
12. Avoid breaking.
I like to play a little game when in heavy traffic: I see how long I can be without having to use the brakes. It requires a careful balance of traffic movement pattern observation, speed (slow), and giving myself enough space between my car and the car in front of me. Not only is it entertaining (better than nothing), it also saves you money on brake pads.
So these are my 12 tips and tricks for surviving in rush hour traffic. I hope some of these help you as much as they help me.