How to Drive in Heavy Traffic

Written by Liam Hoch
How to Drive in Heavy Traffic

Whether you're caught at rush hour or are stuck trying to leave the big game, no one enjoys dealing with heavy traffic. It's stressful, frustrating, and it feels like you'll never get where you're going. Getting caught in this type of heavy traffic can be downright scary for new drivers.

Never fear. Learning the right tools and mindset to deal with that gridlock grind will help you deal with everyone's least favorite driving scenario.

So, what should you keep in mind when you find yourself staring at a row of brake lights with no end in sight? Read on, and let's talk about it.

Take the heavy out of heavy traffic

A lot of staying safe in heavy traffic comes down to remembering the fundamentals, remaining calm and patient, and following a few essential tips:


Brake dancing: Those brake lights in front of you tell a story. You need to learn how to read it. Anticipate that you’ll need to brake and take your foot off the gas to slow down safely when you see brake lights ahead. Prepare to accelerate gently when the lights deactivate. Learning to read the brake lights ahead will help you avoid potential collisions.


Signal your intentions: You should always use your turn signals properly when turning or changing lanes, but it’s critical during high traffic. The drivers around you need to be aware of what you’re planning. Hitting your signals at least 100 feet before you turn or merge might prevent a collision.


Pack your plan: Just like you’d pack your bags and make certain you have everything you need before leaving for a trip, you’ll need to get set for any drive before leaving your house. Plan your route and select your station/podcast/playlist before you go. The more variables you can eliminate before you leave, the less that can cause a distraction when you’re on the road. In heavy traffic, you’ll have very little time to react if your attention diverts from the task of driving.


Mirror mirror: The only way to have an accurate picture of what’s happening around you is to utilize your mirrors. Constantly scan the area around your vehicle. Even when you have no intention of changing lanes, it’s important to have some working knowledge of the area immediately around your vehicle. Monitoring the traffic flow to the sides and behind you is just as crucial as keeping an eye on those brake lights ahead.


Zen out: Heavy traffic situations can lead to some extreme emotions. Remember that your mental state itself can be a real risk factor for getting into a collision. Also, remember that everyone else on the road is in the same situation. Initiating or escalating any form of conflict or negative mentality can easily lead to a crash. If someone behaves aggressively toward you, do not engage, and try to calm down, if necessary, before continuing to drive.

The drivers around you need to be aware of what you're planning

Ride the wave: Part of the way to maintain a calm demeanor and friendly interactions on the road is to communicate with the drivers around you. Yes, turn signals and lights are your first step in this process. Still, sometimes, especially during heavy traffic situations, a quick handwave or some friendly eye contact to help communicate your intentions to your fellow drivers goes a long way.


Watch the weather: Inclement weather such as rain or snow can make any drive more dangerous, but these kinds of challenges in heavy traffic are a collision waiting to happen. Most people know that icy roads make stopping and accelerating safely more difficult, but rain can have the same effect. A severe loss of traction can happen just after it begins to rain when the water first mixes with motor oil and other substances on the road. You won’t have enough room to stop safely unless you’re extra careful when you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic.


It’s not a race: Everyone wants to get where they’re going on time, and if you’ve ever been stuck in a heavy traffic situation when you have someplace to be, you know just how annoying that feeling can be. Your desire to get where you’re going in a timely fashion won’t get you there any faster. There’s nothing more important than getting to your destination safely, even if you’re late.


Dealing with heavy traffic isn’t easy for the most experienced drivers and can probably seem downright diabolical to new drivers. Like death and taxes, heavy traffic situations are just a fact of life. So, keep your cool, remember your driving fundamentals, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Written by
Liam Hoch
Liam Hoch researches and writes about safe driving for DriverZ. Having been a passenger in multiple near-catastrophic vehicle collisions, Liam knows first-hand the dangers of distracted, reckless, and unsafe driving. Passionate about our core principles of helping to make safer drivers and, ultimately, saving lives, Liam stays at the forefront of driving safety innovation and research.

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