It’s the bane of every working person the world over. Rush hour. Horns, bottlenecks, traffic that inches along at times and sends stress levels soaring. Rush hour traffic isn’t only a frustration for drivers trying to get to and from work, it’s a major time-waster as well!

A Colossal Waste of Time and Money

In the UK alone, research has shown that drivers spend 24 hours a year — that’s one full day! — stuck in rush hour traffic. And they’re by no means alone. According to a study released by Texas A&M Transportation Institute and INRIX in 2014, commuters in the U.S. spend nearly double that amount of time — an average of 42 hours a year — sitting in rush hour traffic! Bear in mind that these are country-wide averages. It can be much worse in cities like London, where commuters spend an average of three days a year stuck in gridlock, or one of the worst cities of all — Los Angeles, California, where drivers (or should we call them “idlers”?) sit in traffic for more than four full days annually.

You won’t likely be surprised to hear that it’s more than just our time that we’re wasting as we inch our way towards work or home on a daily basis. It’s also affecting our bank accounts and wasting a whole lot of fuel. Rush hour traffic tie-ups cost the average driver £1,168 a year, according to the latest research. In the U.S., it costs drivers an average of $960 per typical motorist per year. (That’s real money lost to wasted fuel and lost work time, all due to congestion on the road.)

Some countries — Thailand, for instance — waste even more obscene amounts of time and money due to traffic congestion.

Can You Actually Beat RHT?

Some experts think it’s possible to beat rush hour traffic at its own game. Leaving 15 minutes earlier than usual, they say, can make a big difference, like the difference between a normal commute and a commute that includes spending an hour stuck in traffic. (Of course, that takes care of the morning commute. To beat the after-work rush, you’d have to commit to staying at work a bit longer than you might like, something that some of us may have a harder time doing.) Here are a few other strategies to consider:

  • Think about taking a longer (i.e., less congested) route to and from work. It may put more miles on your car, but if it saves you from the frustration of start/stop driving for an hour or more, it may well be worth it.
  • Pop an audio book into the CD or MP3 player. (Okay, we admit that this won’t save you from the traffic, but at least you’ll be entertained and less likely to spend all your time lamenting over the fact that you’re moving at a snail’s pace!)
  • Start thinking about making your way into your exit lane well before you need to. (You’ll avoid the panicked feeling of seeing your exit just ahead and finding that nobody is willing to let you change lanes!)
  • Ask about more flexible work hours, perhaps doing some of your work from home and commuting to and from the office during the off traffic hours. (More and more companies are open to this, and it can’t hurt to ask!)

Finding alternate routes and determining how much earlier you need to leave your house in the morning may require a little time to work out, but if you can cut your “stuck in traffic” time from a full day — or worse — per year down to even half that amount, you’ll have accomplished something worth celebrating! Who knows? You might even be able to experience a rare and beautiful occurrence during your daily commute: the feeling of the wind blowing through your hair as you drive — instead of inch — along the road!

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