The Effects of Traffic Congestion


Millions of people deal with traffic congestion on a daily basis. The roadways leading into and out of most major cities can become gridlocked due to an accident, road construction or simply a high number of cars on the road. Traffic congestion can have a number of effects on drivers, the environment, health and the economy. Fortunately, not all of the effects are negative.

For many commuters, daily gridlock is a fact of life.
For many commuters, daily gridlock is a fact of life. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)


One of the most harmful effects of traffic congestion is its impact on the environment. Despite the growing number of hybrid vehicles on the road, cars stopped in traffic still produce a large volume of harmful carbon emissions. Besides contributing to global warming, these emissions can cause more short-term and localized problems, such as smog and increased respiratory problems in a community due to poor air quality.

Pollution (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Economic Impact

Drivers who encounter unexpected traffic may be late for work or other appointments, causing a loss in productivity for businesses and in the drivers' personal lives. Traffic delays may also slow down the shipping of cargo if delivery trucks can't remain on schedule due to a congested route. Drivers who know that traffic congestion is likely may decide to forgo an activity altogether, leading to less consumer spending and lower event attendance.

Man stuck in traffic
Man stuck in traffic (Image: Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Road Rage

Drivers who become impatient may be more likely to drive aggressively or dangerously. This contributes to poor health for those affected by the stress and puts other drivers in danger. Road rage also increases the danger posed to emergency workers or construction crew members who are working on the congested road close to dangerous drivers.

Road rage
Road rage (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Encouraging Mass Transit

One beneficial effect of traffic congestion is its ability to encourage drivers to consider other transportation options. In cities with frequent traffic congestion, individuals often choose a subway, light rail or bus service. These options reduce traffic on the roads, have less of an environmental impact and reduce the stress associated with driving in heavy traffic.

Mass transit
Mass transit (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

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