Commuter's Guide To Avoiding Rush Hour

Ways to avoid rush hour traffic and save time.

Many people commute to work everyday. Many people are also frustrated with the amount of time all that driving seems to take up. However, by doing a few simple things, and knowing how to avoid the worst of the traffic, commuting doesn't have to be difficult.

Plan things carefully. Pack up as much as you can the night before, and make your breakfast as much as you can (if you eat it). Brew coffee at home and put it in a travel mug. Toast a bagel and stick it in a bag. Grab an apple or banana. Your breakfast is now going with you.

In the winter, about five minutes before you're ready to leave, go outside and start your car (if it's cold enough to need it). Turn the defrosters on high and leave it. If there's a lot of snow on your car, knock off the loose stuff and leave the rest. You won't scrape much (if any) ice if you let your car warm up.



Then, go back inside and gather the last of your things together, finish making your breakfast, or do whatever you need to do. By the time you're ready to really walk out the door, your car's ready and waiting for you.

As far as your actual driving, there are several things to think about. Your "usual" way to get to someplace (or what a website or map tells you) may not be the best way to get there. Think about alternative routes. If you know that the highway you travel on is always jammed with traffic, think about getting off the highway and taking a detour (consult a map or ask a coworker). There may also be another highway you can take. Driving on the back roads may seem slow to you, but they may actually be less busy than the highway is.

Get to know your commute and learn which areas to avoid (if possible). If there's a specific section of highway through a city that's busy, get off the highway at that part and drive through the city. Or, find another highway that goes around it, instead of through it. Be aware of bottlenecks and other traffic problems. Assume, if you can't get around driving through these areas that you'll spend most of your time during the commute here. Plan the rest of your commute well (choosing the fastest roads) so that you have adequate time for these areas.

Check out different routes to reach the highways you need. Not all entrances were created equally. Sometimes you may find one that's close to your house, but you enter the highway 5 miles further away from where you're going. It might be smarter to go to an entrance that's slightly further away, but which is closer to your ultimate destination. Time yourself on the different routes if you're unsure which is best.

Allow yourself plenty of time to travel. Sometimes, if you leave just 15 minutes earlier, you will void the worst of the traffic. Test different starting times and see what's best. For example, the big rush hour is after 8 o'clock in the morning until around 9. If you can leave your house at 7:30 instead of 7:45, you may well avoid most of worst traffic (and once you get to work, you'll have some time to relax!). When the weather is bad, leave earlier (or if you have the option, later)

When you're driving home, try to plan to go earlier or later than most people. 5 o'clock is usually the worst time to go. If you can leave by 4:30 or wait until 5:30, the worst traffic is usually over. Again, just 15 minutes can make a huge difference.

Whichever way you're driving, drive in the lane appropriate to the speed you're going. If you're a slower driver, stay to the right. If you're a faster driver, it can be okay to drive on the left. Don't hold others up by driving on the left if you're at or below the speed limit. However, if you're exiting or changing highways, get into the lane you'll exit from at least a mile in advance; sooner if the traffic's heavy. To avoid difficult lane changes and the resulting slowness, get into the lane you'll exit from as soon as traffic gets slow, even if it's several miles before you exit.

Look for opportunities in traffic to pass slower drivers, but don't drive like a maniac. Be realistic: keep up with the flow of traffic, but don't speed recklessly. By driving much faster or much slower than the general traffic around you, you're causing problems. It's smart to work with the other traffic, rather than against it. To avoid rush hour traffic, plan to leave early, choose the best (though possibly not the most direct) routes, and save time by eating breakfast while driving (which can also keep you alert if you're tired). If you do all of this, your morning commute should be much easier.

© High Speed Ventures 2011