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Why Do Car Accidents Increase in Heavy Traffic?

Published: Aug 8, 2022 in Auto Accident, Personal Injury
Edwardsville Car Crash Lawyers at the Cates Law Firm Take the Stress off Accident Survivors Who Have Been Hurt in Heavy Traffic Collisions.

Highway congestion can be caused by rush hour, population growth, active road construction sites, backups after a crash, and even episodes of bad weather like heavy downpours and snow. When congestion occurs, traffic naturally tends to slow down, and moving from lane to lane becomes more challenging, increasing drivers’ frustration in trying to get on and off exits, or through intersections, and adding time to everyone’s commutes.

Even though everyone is moving slower than they usually might, the statistical likelihood of an accident occurring begins to spike. So, what makes driving in a traffic jam potentially more dangerous than driving at other times? One of the core problems relates to the way people may react when stuck in congestion.

Emotional Responses to Driving in Congested Traffic

If you have spent even a few minutes driving in heavy traffic, you know how frustrating the experience can be. As you inch your way along, you may begin to get angry or anxious. These are understandable responses, but they can lead some drivers to make some poor decisions.

For instance, Illinois drivers may know that it is against the law to text and drive, but they may give in to the temptation to start using their cell phones as they crawl along the highway in congested traffic, even though it puts them at risk of colliding with another vehicle.

Texting is only one of many poor choices that drivers stuck in traffic regularly make. Others include:

  • Speeding and aggression. When they see a break in the traffic flow, flustered and irritated drivers may speed up and nudge their cars aggressively into different lanes. They may also honk incessantly at other drivers to make traffic go faster. AAA notes that this type of behavior quickly can fall into “road rage” categorization. Road rage is linked to a higher chance of being in a crash. In one AAA survey, around eight out of 10 drivers admitted that they had felt extreme anger while driving during the prior month.
  • In bumper-to-bumper traffic, drivers often try to get as close as they can to the vehicles in front of them. This causes tight gridlock and takes away any “cushion” between cars.
  • Unpredictable maneuvering. Drivers can feel trapped when they are in traffic. As such, they may be prone to move their vehicles suddenly to escape gridlock. An example would be a driver who tries to switch lanes without any warning to get closer to an upcoming exit.
  • Driving on the shoulder. Technically, some smaller vehicles have enough room to move along the shoulder of the highway. However, highway shoulders are not lanes. Drivers who try to use them as lanes to travel or pass put themselves and others in harm’s way.
  • Driving through red lights and stop signs. Congestion happens everywhere, including at intersections. At stoplights, drivers may rush through after a light has turned red. They may ignore stop signs and not wait their turn.

Taken together, these responses to traffic jams make highways and streets places where small and catastrophic accidents can happen.

What Types of Accidents Are Most Common in Congested Traffic?

Any kind of accident can happen during a traffic snarl. But a few types of accidents are more common than others when traffic starts to slow down.

Rear-End Accidents: A rear-end collision occurs when a driver hits the car in front. Rear-end accidents can lead to whiplash and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) due to the sudden force of the impact. Even slow-moving rear-end collisions can end up causing serious injuries.

Multiple Vehicle Accidents: Pileups happen when many vehicles are involved in one accident. It is easy to imagine how many cars could be involved during a crash on a busy highway with very little room between vehicles.

T-Bone Accidents: The T-bone type of accident regularly happens at intersections. If a driver tries to speed through a yellow or red light, the driver may hit another car coming through the intersection. T-bone collisions are extremely dangerous because the impact tends to happen next to the driver or passenger.

Sideswipe Accidents: When one driver scrapes the side of another driver’s car, the event is a sideswipe. Sideswipe accidents frequently occur between cars that are tightly packed together, as happens during traffic jams.

Tips to Avoid Collisions During Heavy Traffic

All accidents can be devastating and lead to costly personal injury and property loss. Therefore, it is imperative to take measures to lower your risk of being involved in an accident related to heavy congestion.

First, plan before you get behind the wheel. Many apps will show you where congestion is occurring in real-time. Check out routes and see which ones would be better than others. If you need to use a congested roadway, try to stay on it for as little time as possible.

Secondly, consider leaving at a different time of day. Commuting to work 15 minutes earlier or leaving the office 20 minutes later could make a huge difference in whether or not you sit in traffic.

Finally, stay alert and positive while stuck in traffic jams. Tell yourself that the congestion will eventually end. If you are running late, keep yourself calm. There is very little you can do to make traffic speed up. But you can control the way you respond to the experience.

What If You Get Hurt in an Accident on a Congested Roadway?

If you are involved in an accident in heavy traffic, make sure you are not injured. You may want to get treatment at the scene or go afterward to a local emergency room. Being seen by a medical professional as soon as possible helps you get the diagnosis and care you deserve.

Remember that it may be difficult to work with insurance companies to get compensated after being in a crash. Consider talking with a car accident lawyer to see if your case warrants hiring a legal professional. Attorneys have the expertise to negotiate with insurance companies so you can concentrate on healing and not on arguing about compensation.

Edwardsville Car Crash Lawyers at the Cates Law Firm Take the Stress off Accident Survivors Who Have Been Hurt in Heavy Traffic Collisions

Want to spend time healing rather than dealing with insurance companies after an accident? Call the Edwardsville car crash lawyers at the Cates Law Firm. Call us at 618-277-3644 or submit an online form to meet at our Swansea, Illinois, office. Our practice works with clients in Edwardsville, St. Louis, Madison County, Granite City, East St. Louis, Belleville, Monroe County, Waterloo, St. Clair County, Randolph County, Carbondale, and Chester.