Similar to other cities, navigating through the rush hour traffic in Columbia can turn into a real hassle. If you end up on the highway at the wrong time, you could be stuck for quite awhile. While getting yourself into a traffic jam is bad enough, a rush hour accident is infinitely worse. Unfortunately, the cramped conditions of rush hour often lead to drivers putting safety on the back burner. The risk of an accident rises dramatically during the rush hour period. According to data published by the University of North Carolina Population Center, approximately 25 percent of all car accidents take place during rush hour conditions. If you are driving during rush hour or other heavy traffic conditions in Columbia, South Carolina, you need to be able to keep your family safe. Please consider the following list of five tips on rush hour driving safety.

Leave Yourself Extra Time

We know how frustrating rush hour traffic can be. This frustration can sometimes lead to poor, risky decision-making by drivers. The good news is that you can go a long way towards alleviating rush hour annoyances by leaving yourself extra time for your trip. Most people feel much better about the slow rush hour commute when they are not actually running late. If your trip takes 25 minutes during light traffic, it might take you 35 or 40 minutes during rush hour. Give yourself that extra time; it will most likely make you a much safer and happier driver.

Be Prepared for Quick Stops

It is not a surprise that the most serious car accidents occur at the highest speeds. If your rush hour commute in Columbia takes you on a local highway, such as Interstate 77 or Interstate 26, you need to be especially vigilant. Rush hour makes highway speeds much more risky because there is always the potential that your need to make a quick stop. Sometimes, you must stop seemingly out of nowhere. Most people are familiar with the following highway traffic pattern:

  • You are going at a normal highway speed of 65 miles per hour;
  • Suddenly you are forced to come to a completely stop because of stalled traffic;
  • You crawl along at 5 miles per hour for several minutes;
  • Then the traffic breaks and you can travel at 65 miles per hour again; and
  • Once again, you are forced to slam on the brakes for another sudden stop.

This unpredictable pattern can repeat itself several times. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that this is one of the most dangerous rush hour traffic patterns. During this stop and start traffic, sometimes known as a phantom traffic jam, a slow reaction from one driver can cause a major chain reaction rear-end crash. You need to be prepared for this. The best thing you can do to protect your safety is to leave plenty of extra space between your car and the other vehicles. This extra braking distance could be the difference between you stopping safely and going along with your day and you being involved in a serious auto accident.

Stay in Your Lane

Here is another common rush hour scenario that most Columbia drivers are familiar with:

  • You are driving in the middle lane with other cars passing you on both sides;
  • You dart out to switch lanes; and
  • Suddenly your new lane turns into the slow lane, and you once again are getting passed.

We have all experienced that type of rush hour frustration or something very similar. There is one important lesson that you need to learn from it: you will not be able to out-drive heavy rush hour traffic. You can only save a negligible amount of time by making frequent passes during rush hour conditions. Even worse, you will be putting yourself at a serious safety risk by doing so. Ultimately, you should simply stay in your own lane during rush hour. It is best to sit tight and focus on the road.

Practice Defensive Driving

Defensive driving is a form of driving that encourages taking active steps to reduce the risk of accidents. In reality, you should always practice defensive driving techniques, but it is especially important during riskier situations, such as poor weather or during rush hour. The aforementioned tips of staying in your lane and leaving extra braking distance are two most important defensive driving tips. Along with that, here are six more tips that will help ensure that you are able to get through Columbia rush hour safely:

  1. Keep your focus on the road: you should never perform any other tasks while driving;
  2. Always assume that other drivers will make mistakes: this will allow you to be ready for them;
  3. You must slow down: never go over the speed limit, and in some cases you should drive well below it;
  4. Always wear your seat belt: after all it is the law in South Carolina;
  5. Never change lanes or turn without first signaling, even if you believe no one is close to your vehicle: proper signaling is still critical; and
  6. Look far out ahead of your vehicle: it is always best to know what it coming down the road.

If You Can, Avoid Rush Hour

Ultimately, it is best to avoid rush hour traffic if you are able to do so. Certainly, not everyone has this option. However, you may be able to shift your schedule around slightly in order to give yourself a much easier commute. One of the notable things about rush hour traffic in Columbia is that it does usually tend to fade out rather quickly. The difference between the bumper to bumper traffic at the peak of rush hour and completely smooth driving conditions can sometimes be as little as 30 minutes in either direction.

Were You Injured a Car Accident?

In the unfortunate event that you or loved one has been injured in a car accident, you need to speak to an experienced Columbia car accident lawyer as soon as possible. At the Joye Law Firm, our car accident team has extensive experience helping victims recover the fair compensation that they deserve. Please do not hesitate to contact our Columbia office today to learn more about what we can do for you. Initial case evaluations are fully confidential and free of charge.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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