Chicago Makes the List: Top 10 Most Traffic-Congested Cities

Chicago drivers are at a higher risk of becoming involved in an auto accident because the city is rated in the top ten traffic congested cities in the United States. Traffic congestion significantly increases the risk of car crashes.

INRIX Traffic Scorecard Report

Chicago is a great city to live in or visit and is often found top ten lists. Conde Nast Travel and Time Out continually rank it as the best city for having it all. However, what is not so great is its ranking in a recent INRIX Traffic Scorecard Report. This annual report is used by the federal, state and local governments to improve urban mobility by bringing attention to where improvement is needed.

Chicago is ranked as the eighth most traffic-congested out of 297 U.S. cities monitored by INRIX. On average, city drivers spend 57 hours a year in traffic. Almost 20 percent of the time spent driving in congestion occurs while driving within the city.

Traffic congestion in the city does not only affect its residents. The congested roadways affect visitors to the city because Chicago is also a popular tourist destination. Both commuters and tourists are on the roadways, especially during certain times of the year, including holidays and vacation periods. Being listed as a highly traffic-congested city can have a negative effect on the city’s tourism industry. Tourists need to anticipate spending time in traffic, which is not appealing to those trying to escape the daily grind of traffic jams.

More and Wider Roads Have Not Helped

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, an agency that sets the agenda for Chicago’s transportation funding recently proposed their suggestions for highway expansion projects. This agency is responsible for designating what transportation projects are eligible for federal funding. Among the projects proposed is the widening of major highways, including Interstates 294 and 290 and parts of Interstates 55 and 80.

It might seem that the answer to alleviating traffic congestion is to add more lanes to highways or build new roads. However, a study conducted by the Active Transportation Alliance recently concluded that roadway expansion since 1980 has led to increased traffic congestion and more auto accidents. More lanes and more roads draw more motorists to roadways. The Alliance thinks it is time to re-evaluate the strategy of widening roads and recommends investing in mass transit and ways to make it easier for citizens to bike or walk instead of driving. This has been met with mixed reactions.

Correlation between Traffic Congestion and Accidents

It is no secret that there is a correlation between traffic congestion and accidents. A 2003 research report from the University of Maryland concluded that there is a relationship between congestion levels and increased potential for accidents. Accident rates notably increase as traffic volume increases during periods of peak congestion. These rates significantly increase when the number of through lanes is increased on a highway.

This study also determined several key factors that can be used to predict the severity of accident injuries that occur with traffic accidents on congested roadways:

  • Congestion level – the more congested the roadway, the more likely an accident will be less severe. A typical type of accident that could occur within a highly-congested stretch of roadway is a low-speed rear-end collision. This type of collision is often caused when a driver is distracted.
  • Intersection involved – an accident that occurs at an intersection on a congested roadway is more likely to be severe. The risk for severe injuries is higher as most of these crashes are head-on.
  • Condition of driver – the likelihood of accident and injury severity increases if the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs because reaction time is impaired.
  • Presence of a divided median – the severity of accidents like head-on collisions can be reduced on congested roadways that have a divided median.
  • Weather conditions – accidents that occur during snow events on congested highways tend to be less severe and usually incur more property damage than personal injury.

Drivers Can Avoid Accidents from Traffic Congestion

There are ways for drivers to lessen the risk of being involved in an auto accident on a congested roadway. Drivers should:

  • Stay alert instead of being distracted to help prevent them from rear-ending the car in front of them. Should refrain from tailgating and keep a safe distance between their cars and others on the road.
  • Take mass transit whenever possible, such as a bus or train during peak travel periods to help reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Make sure their vehicles are in good working condition.