Anyone who lives in the Central Texas area is no stranger to traffic and construction delays. Whether it’s construction, rush hour, or a wind turbine blade stuck in an intersection (yes, it’s real), traffic is all but guaranteed to be slow.
But just how slow? Texas A&M Transportation Institute has released their annual report on Texas roads for 2018, featuring the most congested roads in the state. Here are some of the highlights in Austin.
The cost of congestion
It’s apparent traffic is a problem when it makes us late to work, but it is also a problem for pollution and a waste of resources.
In Austin alone, the report found a cumulative delay of 66 million hours and 24 million gallons of wasted fuel. That’s about 37 olympic-pools-worth of gas.
Our time sitting in traffic also adds up – a commuter who spends 45 minutes a day commuting spends the equivalent of 15.6 days in the car per year. And that’s just for work travel, alone.
At the top of the list for Austin’s most congested roads is IH-35 from US 290 N to Ben White Blvd, where the annual delay per mile is 1.3 million hours. This is the span of IH-35 that goes from North Loop through downtown and south of Lady Bird Lake.
Anyone who has been through downtown could probably tell you it’s the worst stretch of traffic in the city, but the extent of its congestion is mind-blowing.
It is followed by the next segment of IH-35 south, from Ben White to Slaughter Lane, where the annual delay is nearly 500,000 hours per mile.
For freight-related traffic, IH-35 in Austin is also the most congested in the entire state.
Honorable road congestion mentions include:
- Mopac from US 183 to S Capital of Texas Highway
- IH-35 from Parmer Ln to US 290 N
- S Lamar from W 45th to W Cesar Chavez
- Cesar Chavez from S Mopac to IH-35
- US 183 from E Ben White to N Mopac
Texas A&M Transportation Institute has gathered this data since 2010 to measure traffic and monitor roadway volume and speed data, in order to reduce gridlock in the state.
The institute, along with many other sources, attribute a rising population with worsening road congestion across the state. A survey in 2016 found that 83 percent of Austinites are unhappy with our driving conditions in the city.
Many solutions have been attempted, and failed, and no feasible alternative has been proposed. Without a solution in sight, the best thing Austin drivers can do is shoot for non-peak hours to travel or use public transportation as much as possible.
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It’s been a full 8-hour workday and you’ve got to get to that family event back in your hometown tonight, several hours away. All you feel like doing is crashing on the couch with Netflix, but you brew yourself a fresh thermos of coffee and haul yourself into the driver’s seat. But with caffeine coursing through your veins and your favorite music blasting, you still feel your eyelids trying to close and your mind wandering from the road in front of you.
It’s not an unusual scenario, taking a trip after a long day, knowing you *probably* shouldn’t be driving? Sometimes it feels unavoidable, but we can, at the very least, do what we can ahead of time to make that trip safer and take care of our own well-being in the process.
And although long drives can be tough, the risk of falling asleep at the wheel can happen at any time, even in a 10 minute drive from work. Here are a few ways we can take care of ourselves to make sure we stay safe on the road.
This might be one of the most important factors of self-care driving.
Did you know that inadequate amount of sleep is equivalent to BAC of .08 or higher? Without proper rest, the areas in the brain responsible for concentration and memory are also affected. We start to have disconnected thoughts and become unaware of our surroundings.
Try to drive earlier in the day, or even take a nap midday, if you’re able. Even a short nap can make a big difference to your attentiveness. According to a NASA study, sleepy pilots who took a 40-minute nap experienced a 34% performance increase and a 100% increase in alertness.
Eat and Stay Hydrated
Always stay hydrated! Long drives are an opportunity to make sure you stay hydrated, but being hydrated ahead of time is just as important.
We want to be able to focus while driving and hunger is a big distraction. In addition, if you haven’t eaten, you probably don’t have enough of the nutrients you need to stay focused for the drive ahead. Don’t eat anything too heavy though, a food coma won’t help your focus.
We want to avoid as many distractions as possible while driving, and part of that looking after your driving needs ahead of time. Part of your self-care can be to keep your snacks and water within reach, and open difficult packaging ahead of time. If you don’t already, get a pair of comfortable sunglasses that reduce glare. If you’re driving in the winter, you might take off your top coat layer for a long drive (since the heater is probably going to warm things up before long).
Your phone is also a distraction while driving. You might use the GPS feature on your phone a lot, but instead of having to keep picking it up and looking at it, use the air vent mount for cars. This is one of the best purchases for hands-free driving, since it is easy to take on and off the mount, and is within your line of sight so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.
And for those other distractions on your phone, turn notifications off. If you have Bluetooth connectivity in your car, use it to pick up calls instead of holding the phone to your ear. Limit the things that make you take your hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. These self-care methods work to keep you safer and happier.
We want to feel comfortable while driving, especially during long drives.
Make sure you have comfortable clothes that don’t restrict your movement and shoes that are comfortable while operating the pedals. You don’t want to be in pain or feel like you can’t breathe or move freely. If this happens, we start to think about how uncomfortable we are, which means we are not focusing on the road 100%.
However, being too comfortable can have severe effects as well. We want to avoid creating an environment in our car where we just want to sleep instead of drive.
Keep Your Worries Off the Road
Despite all the risks involved with driving, never forget that driving can also be really relaxing! It can be a time to focus on yourself: Self-care within itself. Listen to an audio book, podcast, or some music you enjoy. You can find a way to use this time to unwind from your long day. Putting yourself in a relaxed, but enjoyable head-space can also reduce stress and make you less likely to react/act negatively toward other drivers.
Put all your worries behind you and off the road. You’ll be more focused to your surroundings and have a safer (and relaxing) drive!
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