City Driving Without the Headache: Avoiding Downtown Slowdowns

Rush hour in the city is so busy that it often feels as though every single resident must be out on the road at the same time. And if it isn’t congestion, pedestrian traffic, daredevil cyclists, or a collision, then there’s definitely construction to slow down your trip. Rerouting around cities, while a great option, is not always convenient or possible – and even when it is, other setbacks can still happen. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to limit the likelihood that you’ll be faced with a major delay, or to increase your chances of getting through quickly if you can’t get around it.


Cities inherently present more driving distractions than expressways; not only is there much more going on (more cars, more traffic signs, etc.), there are also additional features that just aren’t present on interstates – like bike lanes and pedestrians. Add that to the fact that city drivers have a reputation for being *ahem* aggressive, and you’ve got an accident waiting to happen.

Give city driving your full attention, and drive defensively to avoid getting involved in a collision. Be patient, but assertive – clearly indicate your intentions and provide other drivers with as much notice as possible when you need to turn or change lanes. Don’t force your way in but rather edge in carefully, making sure that the drivers around you understand what you’re doing.

The same applies to stopping; drive cautiously and change speeds gradually, rather than slamming down on the pedal, to give the drivers behind you time to react. This is especially important when there is a truck behind you since their inertia makes it impossible to stop on a dime. Leaving a generous space cushion between you and other drivers is often difficult in traffic – other cars may see extra space as an invitation to sneak in front of you – but remember that any seconds you gain by driving aggressively will be lost by the hours spent dealing with an accident, if things go wrong. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to crossing the city safely.

Rush Hour Congestion

In New York City, less than a quarter of residents (approximately 23%) drive to work – a tiny fraction of the national average (77%). It seldom feels that way, though. That’s because congestion is about more than just the number of people on the road; it’s also about the concentration – and during rush hour, when huge numbers of people are all trying to move in the same directions at the same time, the streets can feel much, much smaller.

Your best bet to beat the busyness is to try to travel during off-peak hours; avoid heading into the city in the morning, and avoid trying to head out in the late afternoon and early evening. Given that most people commute for 9-to-5s, try to limit your weekday city-driving time to the early morning (before 7am) and after-dark (after 7pm) hours for maximum mobility. If you suspect that other routes may be quicker, take advantage of cell phone apps that track traffic in real time to scope out the alternatives (but avoid doing so while driving – it’s not only illegal in many States but extremely dangerous)


One of the great things about the Northeast is that construction is only seasonal, since little road work can be done in the wintertime. Unfortunately, the limited time frame in which to complete road work during warmer weather often makes the summer more-than-inconvenient enough to compensate for any time gains in the colder months. The best strategy for avoiding construction delays is simply to avoid affected areas as much as possible. Research your route ahead of time, and budget tons of extra time to reach your destination – that way you won’t feel anxious when you see road crews on the horizon.


Like Construction, there’s little you can do about inclement weather – but you can limit its affect on your ETA by planning ahead and by being strategic. Make a habit of checking the forecast regularly, and, if you know that bad weather is on the way, time your driving so that you can take your break during the worst part(s) of the storm. When it comes to slippery surfaces and low visibility, waiting it out is sometimes a better move than pressing on and risking the bigger delay of an accident.

Encountering slowdowns is unfortunately an inevitable part of the driving experience – especially when you spend most of your days on the road, going from one major city to another. But even if you can’t prevent delays altogether, effective planning and cool-minded self-discipline can keep their impact to a minimum.


Al Nichols

Al Nichols

An experienced and trusted RIST Transport driver, Al Nichols works tirelessly to meet customer needs with excellent service and expert driving. Al is an integral player in RIST's mission to be the Carrier of Choice, building strong relationships, handling specific customer needs, and keeping safety, efficiency, professionalism and quality top-of-mind.