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Bottlenecks Cause Delay, Increase Risk For Accidents

As a major metropolitan area, Atlanta is home to one of the most severe bottlenecks on America's highway grid. Large urban areas are home to most of the worst delays experienced by passenger and freight vehicles, with New York, Los Angeles and Chicago leading the way. Traffic at these bottlenecks frequently comes crawling to a standstill, causing frustration and wasting millions of hours in time, cumulatively. In a single, 1.3 mile stretch of Atlanta highway, approximately 1.2 million hours are lost per year due to congestion. Eliminating these bottlenecks would lead to massive economic gains and could save countless lives lost in traffic accidents.

Rapid changes in the rate of traffic can lead to devastating accidents. Congestion can cause traffic to go from 65 mph to a complete stop very quickly. A momentary distraction can lead to full speed collisions where fast moving vehicles strike multiple vehicles stopped on the highway. If the speeding vehicle is a tractor trailer, the damage is often catastrophic. 

Reducing or eliminating bottlenecks is not a simple process. It will require a large investment of time and money. Some highways simply lack the capacity to handle the traffic they receive. Others could be corrected with adjustments to exit and entrance ramps. In some situations, improved signage can help to relieve congestion. The smooth operation of these trouble spots can improve the quality of life for commuters and freight traffic, alike. Improvements will also have positive benefits for the environment, as substantial fuel is consumed and pollution released while vehicles idle needlessly. Improvements to the top 30 American bottlenecks could save approximately 35 million gallons of fuel per year.

Avoiding bottlenecks is not an option for many drivers. Working hours are dictated by factors outside the control of most individuals. Morning and evening commute times will continue to tax highway capacity limits for the foreseeable future. Finding the best ways to make traffic flow more easily during peak times is an important step to protecting driver safety and our environment.

Source: American Highway Users Alliance, "Unclogging America's Arteries 2015 ," November 2015 

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