By Madeline Klein on April 11, 2017.
If you commute in a big city, chances are you're well-versed in the ways of traffic. According to an AutoInsuranceCenter.com study, the average commuter spends 42 hours—an entire workweek—in traffic each year. Not only does it cost drivers time, but also money. In Chicago for instance, traffic costs the average commuter $1,445 in wasted time and fuel.
Unfortunately we can't magically reduce traffic or make it cost any less, but we can tell you some ways to endure, and dare we say embrace, the struggle. Let's dig in!
Make your clothing as comfortable as possible.
Feel free to look as spiffy as you'd like at work, but when you're on the highway, nobody is going to know if you're rocking heels or flats. Why not embrace what's most comfortable? Before you set off on your traffic adventure, take off any bulky jackets or uncomfortable ties, switch your shoes, or if possible, wear a completely different, traffic-friendly outfit and change later. The less fidgeting you have to do with your clothes, the better chance you have to stay sane (and safe) on your drive.
Have an easy-open snack readily available.
There are plenty of opportunities to be frustrated on a drive without adding hangriness to the mix. Even if hunger doesn't compel you to say or do regrettable things, it's still uncomfortable! Pack some easy to open and close snacks, and while you're at it, have a drink handy as well.
*If eating in the car isn't your thing, gum and mints could be a solid compromise to hold you over.
If possible, alter your timing.
Sometimes waiting 15 minutes to an hour can make all the difference. If you have a flexible work schedule, try playing around with your departure times to see if it saves you any traffic trouble. If your work schedule is set in stone, but you know leaving an hour earlier from home or an hour later from work would help significantly, try using the extra hour for eating breakfast, gym time, running errands, reading or something else productive.
Even if you can't manage to avoid rush-hour, leaving your house a little earlier can reduce stress by adding a buffer to being late in case traffic is especially bad one day.
Use the ride for entertainment and knowledge.
How fortunate are we to have books, talk shows and lessons available at the touch of a button? If you're going to spend 42 hours a year sitting in traffic, why not use it to learn a new language, knock out that reading list, dive into history or catch up on the latest theories? If you're not sure where to start, check out our blog posts with some audiobook and podcast recommendations.
Pick the right playlist.
Music helps, but you may want to be strategic on what you're putting into your playlist. PsychologyToday posted about a rush-hour stress study that showed that drivers who listen to aggressive or no music at all had an increased blood pressure while stuck in traffic. Those who listened to easy-listening, soothing music seemed to fare better. We're not advocating you ditch Queen Bey for Beethoven, but if you feel your heart rate rising with the stop and go traffic, you may want to have a "good vibes" or acoustic playlist ready.
Just chill in your lane.
Isn't it just the worst when one lane is moving along and yours seems to be a stand still? So you make the bold lane change only to stop fifteen feet later? The worst. Reader's Digest wrote about a study that tested the impact switching lanes had on arrival time in Los Angeles traffic. After a 10-mile stretch, it found that a car that changed lanes to a faster lane every chance it got was only 15 seconds ahead of a car that stayed in the same lane. Fifteen seconds is not worth the risk of multiple merges. If you can, just try to embrace your lane and go with the flow.
Have fun with your surroundings.
Being stuck in traffic gives you the chance to do some people watching or get creative with your surroundings. For instance, you can make a game with license plate numbers. For each letter in the license, use it as the first letter of a word to make a sentence. Example: If the license plate number is PL5-P9F, you can make the sentences "Please let's pass faster" or "Puppies like people food". If counting is more your thing, you have thousands of opportunities! Example: Count the number of red cars you see one day and see if blue beats it the next.