Poll: Traffic in the United States

As far as their own behavior, nearly a quarter of drivers fess up to speeding very or somewhat often, and more -- 58 percent -- say they do it at least occasionally. More than four in 10 concede that they drive inattentively at least occasionally, and three in 10 sometimes drive aggressively. Two in 10, or close to it, at least occasionally make impolite gestures, feel road rage, or run a light or stop sign.

Driving Behavior
Have seen: Very/Somewhat oftenHave done: Occasionally or more
Inattentive driving7143
Aggressive driving6430
Run a light/stop sign4017
Impolite gestures3421
Road rage2719

Fessing Up: Personal Behavior (at Least Occasionally)
Drive inattentively43
Drive too aggressively30
Make impolite gestures21
Feel road rage19
Run a stop sign or light17


Thirty-six percent of Americans concede that they engage in at least one of these behaviors very or somewhat often. These aggressive drivers are most likely to include young drivers, people who often get stuck in traffic jams and city drivers.

There's another kind of behavior this poll measures: What people do when they're stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Almost everyone listens to the radio or music; four in 10 talk on the phone or have a bite to eat. Among women, one in 10 say they sometimes put on makeup. The fewest -- 3 percent -- try to drive and read at the same time.

Problems and Solutions

People chiefly blame the sheer volume of traffic as the main cause of jams in their area; 44 percent say so, while 26 percent blame construction and 14 percent say it's accidents. In cities, suburbs and the worst-traffic areas, moreover, volume soars as the prime culprit.

However, building new roads or expanding public transit -- both presumably volume-reducing measures -- are not seen as the most effective solutions. Instead a low-tech and comparatively low-cost approach takes the top slot: Sixty-six percent think it's very effective to remove disabled vehicles from the roadway immediately, an approach some municipalities are stressing.

'Very Effective' Traffic Remedies
Clear breakdowns66
Traffic alerts56
Improving lights55
New roads51
Public transit42
Car pooling39
HOV lanes27
Adjustable tolls7
City-center tolls7

The next best solutions from the public's perspective are equally commonsense: Using an information system such as electronic signs or other alerts to warn people about jams and suggest other routes, and improving the timing of traffic lights.

Fifty-one percent do think road-building is very effective (highest in the South, lowest in the Northeast); that slips to 42 percent for building or expanding mass transit. About as many think car pooling can work well.

Some of the approaches that get some of the most buzz, however, are much less likely to be seen as very effective solutions. Just 27 percent think HOV lanes will do the trick, and even among the nearly three in 10 Americans who have HOV lanes in their area, 34 percent rate them as very effective in reducing congestion.

Far fewer still, a mere 7 percent, think it's very effective to charge adjustable tolls on highways (that is, higher tolls when the volume is heaviest), or tolls on non-residents to enter the central areas of major cities during business hours. Even among people who live in big cities, just 15 percent support tolls on non-residents driving in, and just 10 percent see it as very effective in reducing congestion.

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