Rush hour traffic. Everyone has experienced it at some point in their life, and I have yet to find an individual that enjoys being a part of it. Although it is inevitable that traffic speeds will slow during peak driving hours (usually 7-9am and 3-6 pm), there are five major things that cause rush hour traffic to pile up, creating the stop-and-go experience that everyone loathes. The surprising fact is that four of the top five factors can easily be modified or even eliminated by drivers, therefore decreasing the amount of traffic jams throughout the country.

5. Road construction. You guessed it, this cause is not modifiable, unless of course everyone prefers to drive on poorly maintained roads that rapidly deteriorate and have no plans for future reconstruction. Road construction tends to slow everything down, as it eliminates extra exits and lanes, and decreases the overall speed limit. Speed decreases are extremely justifiable and also necessary for the safety of our hardworking road crews, but nevertheless, road construction greatly increases total commute time.

4. Accidents. Although this factor is not modifiable unless you are a party involved in the crash, we can all focus on driving more defensively and attentively. Car accidents tend to lead to the worst traffic jams, as they sometimes block off entire highways, and it can take a great deal of time to restore the roadway to its original drivable status. Car accidents never lead to good things. By focusing our efforts on driving more defensively, we will be able to drastically reduce the number of car accidents, and ultimately traffic jams, that everyone experiences daily.

3. Merging problems. Let's face it, merging is a huge cause of traffic slow-downs. Some individuals go so far as to stop completely in their lane and wait to merge onto their exit. Not only does this slow traffic flow, it is extremely dangerous. Defensive driving was mentioned before, but merging is where safe, but aggressive, driving is essential. If everyone works on merging quickly and efficiently, there will be less dangerous encounters with "stand-still" vehicles, and traffic will flow more smoothly, especially near exits and intersections.

2. Cell phones. In today's society nearly everyone has talked on a cell phone while either driving a car or riding as a passenger. Although it is nice to have a life-line while stuck in traffic, inattentive driving and cell phone use do more harm than good. If all individuals talking on cell phones chose instead to focus on their driving, it is almost guaranteed that commute times would decrease and overall traffic flow would improve.

1. "Gawking". We all do it. Especially in cities that we do not call home, we tend to become extremely interested in our surroundings, and less and less interested in the road ahead of us. Because of this factor, cars with "gawking" drivers tend to drive more slowly and therefore lead to a buildup of traffic. This phenomenon also frequently accompanies sections of road construction, as drivers want to see what the working crews are doing, further building on the already present traffic congestion problems.

As you can see, many of these problems build upon one another. Basically, if all drivers can focus on the road as their number one priority, instead of road construction, unfamiliar surroundings, accidents, or cell phones, and also drive defensively and safely, the overall prominence of traffic jams and congestion will decrease, allowing everyone to reach their destinations faster and happier.