Most states have at least one major city, and in these major cities, there’s traffic, sometimes a lot of traffic. Some cities have more traffic than others, which is based on the city’s population. No one enjoys sitting in traffic because of how stressful and frustrating it can be. Let’s unveil peak traffic hours for you as a commuter.

When Are Peak Traffic Hours?

The busiest times on the road, especially on the highway, are when people are traveling to work and from work, which equates to weekday mornings from & AM to 9 AM and weekday afternoons from 4 PM to 6 PM.

Rush Hour and Traffic Patterns

Rush hour is also referred to as peak hours. These hours are specific times during the day when traffic congestion is at its highest. Rush hour is often associated with the times people are commuting to and from school or work. Once you understand the rush hours in your city and the traffic patterns, you can plan your route accordingly and effectively, which will help you avoid unnecessary delays.

Weekday Commute Peak Times

Weekday commute peaks are the worst. The weekday rush hours for weekdays are in the mornings and evenings. In most areas, morning rush hours begin at approximately 7 AM and last until 9 AM. Evening rush hours occur between the hours of 4:30 PM and 6:30 PM. During weekday commute peak times, roads are congested because a large number of people are traveling from work or picking up their children from school.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) conducted a study that revealed the average commuter spends approximately 54 hours each year stuck driving during peak times and stuck in traffic. This data shows the importance of determining alternative routes or adjusting your travel time to avoid weekday commute peak times.

Weekend and Holiday Traffic

A lot of people travel during the holidays, and it’s not always by plane or train. Although rush hour traffic is generally associated with weekdays, traffic can also be prevalent during the weekends and holidays, especially in popular tour destinations or hosting major events, such as concerts.

Most people with vacation time use it to travel during the holidays, resulting in more traffic on major roads, especially highways.

Avoiding traffic during this time is not impossible, but to do so, you’ll need to be aware of traffic hotspots during the holidays and on weekends. You can use navigation apps or online traffic updates to provide real-time information about traffic and road conditions. These apps are also great for helping you find alternative routes to avoid heavy traffic.

Remember that traffic patterns can change under certain circumstances. For instance, cities that have a large number of schools often experience heavy traffic during the beginning and end of school semesters as students travel from home to campus and vice versa.

Understanding your local traffic patterns can help you create an alternative route to avoid traffic. If you can’t, understanding local traffic patterns when help you determine the best time to leave your home and work to experience as little traffic as possible.

What Factors Impact Rush Hour Traffic?

Different factors, such as work start and end times, school and university schedules, and special events and venues determine rush hour traffic.

Work Start and End Times

Work start and end times are the primary factors in traffic times. Most companies have set working hours that often start between 8 and 9 AM and end between 5 PM and 6 PM, which creates a flow of commuters and leads to heavy traffic. If you have flexible work hours, take advantage of it. With flexible work hours, you can start or end your work day sooner or later, allowing you to avoid traffic rush hours.

School and University Schedules

A lot of people don’t consider this, but school and university schedules also play a role in rush hour traffic. While school is in session, traffic will increase in the morning and afternoon when parents are dropping off or picking up their children, which adds congestion on the road, especially when you’re traveling near or through school zones. Universities will experience a lot of traffic during peak class times when students and faculty travel to and from campus.

Special Events and Venues

Sporting events, festivals, and concerts bring travelers from all around, which significantly increases traffic. If you are planning to attend a special event, consider the time and the location. These factors are essential for planning a route that can help you navigate to and from the event safely without having to deal with a lot of traffic.

To prevent yourself from sitting in traffic for hours, check the event’s schedule and plan at least two alternative routes to help you avoid traffic. You can also use different modes of traffic to make it easier to get to and from your destination.

Traffic Hour Times in Major Cities

If you live in a major city or have traveled to a major city, you know traffic can be the worst. Let’s look at the traffic times in major cities.

New York City

In NYC, you’ll experience the worst traffic between 7 AM and 9 AM and again between 5 PM and 7 PM. During these times, the highways and streets in NYC are packed with commuters trying to get from point A to point B. Although many New York City residents use alternative methods of transportation to get to their destination, such as subways, many people still use their vehicles to travel, which leads to a lot of traffic. The traffic hot spots in NYC are the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Lincoln Tunnel, and FDR Drive.

According to a traffic index, NYC ranks in the top 10 for the cities with the most traffic in the world. NYC commuters spend more than 125 hours a year stuck in traffic. To avoid the rush hours in this city, arrange to travel outside the peak times mentioned.

Los Angeles

In LA, rush hour traffic is unimaginable. During morning and evening commutes, drivers who are stuck in this California city’s traffic will be there for a while, also known as gridlocked. LA’s worst traffic times are between 7 AM and 10 AM if you are commuting in the morning. However, if you’re commuting in the evening, the worst traffic times are between 4 PM and 7 PM.

During rush hour in this city, major freeways, such as the 101 and 405 quickly become congested, delaying many commuters. To avoid getting stuck in LA rush hour traffic, consider using alternative methods of travel, such as carpooling or public transit. You can also plan to travel outside of the above-mentioned peak hours.


Chicago is yet another city that has a lot of traffic, and in this state, traffic is the most congested between 7 AM and 9 AM. If you’re traveling in the evening, traffic will be the most congested between 4 PM and 6 PM. During Chicago’s peak times, major highways in this state, such as the Dan Ryan Expressway and the Kennedy Expressway quickly become heavily congested, resulting in frustrated delays.

The Chicago Department of Transportation states this city has adopted different strategies to improve traffic congestion, including enhancing public transit options and implementing traffic management systems. Avoiding rush hour traffic in Chicago requires you to plan to travel outside of peak traffic times, or utilize alternative transportation options when you can.


If you’re commuting in Houston, you’ll see highways become congested from 7 AM to 9 AM during your morning travels. In the afternoon, traffic peak hours are from 4 PM to 7 PM. During Houston traffic peak hours, major highways, such as I-45 and I-10 will be heavily congested, which can cause delays for some commuters.

To avoid Houston traffic, it’s best to travel outside of traffic peak hours. You’ll also want to stay updated on current traffic conditions using traffic apps or the news.

Tips for Avoiding Rush Hour Traffic

Avoiding rush hour traffic can be easier than you think. Use these expert tips to help save you time and a little frustration.

Adjust Your Departure Time

One of the best ways to avoid traffic is by adjusting your departure time. Your departure time is the time you leave your destination. So, when you’re leaving for work or traveling for any other reason, leave your house at least 10 to 15 minutes earlier than you normally would.

There’s still a chance you may get stuck in traffic, but it won’t be the heavy, congested traffic you’re used to. However, you won’t be stuck in a standstill. You’ll likely be able to maneuver through traffic before it becomes congested and reach your destination on time.

Use Public Transportation

If you’re dealing with heavy traffic, there’s a good chance you live in a major city, which means public transportation is likely available. If you can, take public transportation to and from certain destinations to avoid traffic altogether. If your city has trains or buses, use them! These methods of travel often have dedicated lanes and routes they follow to get people to their destination without a lot of hassle because they bypass many congested roads and sometimes highways.

Find Alternative Routes

Use a navigation app to help you find alternative routes that can help you avoid traffic and busy roads during rush hour. It may take longer to reach your destination, but you won’t have to worry about sitting in traffic for hours.

Set Flexible Work Hours

If you can, take advantage of flexible work hours. Having this benefit allows you to adjust your schedule to help you avoid rush hour traffic. If flexible work hours are not available from your employer, consider adjusting your work schedule. Aside from avoiding traffic, flexible work hours can reduce stress and improve your work-life balance.

Download Real-Time Traffic Apps

Apple Maps and Google Maps are great for helping you avoid traffic. These navigation apps provide real-time information about traffic, road closures, detours, and more. By using these apps, you can adjust your current route or create a new one.

It’s a good idea to configure your routes before hitting the road. Trying to figure out the best route to take while driving can be frustrating and is a distracted driving practice. When you’re using navigation apps, be sure to select the hands-free option.

Tips for Driving in Heavy Traffic

No one wants to attempt to drive in heavy traffic. However, knowing how to maneuver through such a frustrating time can make your commute a little easier. Here are expert tips to help you navigate through heavy traffic.

Remove All Distractions

You’ll be surprised at how distracted you can become while driving. If you’re stuck in heavy traffic, you don’t anticipate moving for a while, so you’ll pick up your phone or another electronic device to pass the time. However, although you’re not driving at the current moment, you are still unaware of your surroundings, and when traffic does start moving, you’ll likely be unaware.

You need to remain aware, especially when traffic starts to flow again because the road is crowded with tons of cars and aggravated drivers. When people are aggravated, a lot of things they do won’t make sense, such as creating their a lane or merging in places where they shouldn’t. One of the last things you want to be is distracted in these situations.

You can limit your distractions by taking the following steps:

  • If you have passengers, ask them to remain quiet until you’ve safely made it through traffic
  • Turn down the volume on your radio or turn the music off entirely
  • Put your cell phone on silent mode

Drive Defensively

Learning to drive defensively is an essential skill for driving in general. Defensive driving covers different skills you should use to prevent dangerous situations on the road. It’s a good idea to plan different ways you can react in an emergency. You can also follow these defensive driving tips:

  • Continuously scan traffic and road conditions
  • Identify vehicles that appear unsafe, such as vehicles that merge across multiple lanes of traffic, speeding dangerously, or drift within a single lane.
  • Go with the flow of traffic
  • Signal before turning or merging into a different traffic lane
  • Leave space between you and other vehicles or structures
  • Never operate a motor vehicle when you are tired, emotionally agitated, or frustrated

Plan Your Driving Route

Avoiding heavy traffic can be as simple as creating an alternate route or changing the time you leave your home. In most situations, leaving 15 minutes before morning or evening rush hour traffic can tremendously decrease the chance of running into heavy traffic.

Look for Heavy Traffic

When you’re approaching crowded roads, remove your foot from the accelerator and allow your vehicle to coast forward. By doing so, you can maintain a moderate speed while saving gas. Depending on your distance from other vehicles, you may be required to brake to slow down your vehicle to an acceptable speed. When you decrease your speed, there’s a good chance that heavy traffic will begin moving before you reach it.

Use Lower Gears

Using lower gears can improve your engine’s efficiency. Even if you’re driving a vehicle that has an automatic transmission, you can use the lower gear settings, such as D2 and D3 to use a lower gear. Gear D3 or 3 is often used to stop and go while driving. D2, 2, or S (slow) locks keep your vehicle in second gear, which you can use when you are driving up or downhill. When you’re using a lower gear, you can brake quicker.

Create a 2-Second Distance Between You and Traffic

Create no less than a 2-second distance between your vehicle and the traffic in front of you. Determine how many seconds of distance is between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. To do this, choose a road sign and say the phrase “Only a fool ignores the 2-second rule” as the car in front of you passes the sign.

When your vehicle is even with the sign, stop counting. The number you stop counting is the number of seconds of distance between you and the other vehicle. You’ll need to adjust your speed accordingly. The more space/time you put between your car and the car in front of you, the more time you’ll have to react and prevent an accident.

Drive Below the Speed Limit

Driving below the speed limit may sound insane, especially when you’re driving on the highway. However, when there’s heavy traffic, driving below the speed limit can increase your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road. It’s important to feel safe when you’re driving.

Remember that driving too slow can frustrate other drivers and make them impatient, which can create dangerous driving situations.

Prepare to Make Emergency Maneuvers

Although you may practice safe driving maneuvers, you can’t count on other drivers to do the same. Drivers who are frustrated and impatient make poor decisions that may require you to take drastic measures to prevent a collision. You may have to merge into a different traffic lane to prevent an accident or move onto the shoulder of the highway. Pay attention to your surroundings and be on the lookout for drivers who are driving recklessly.

Leave the Highway If You’re Uncomfortable

Driving on the highway can be pure chaos with or without traffic. If you’re uncomfortable driving on the highway under any circumstances, get off the highway at the next exit and find an alternative route to your destination. If you can’t find a route that doesn’t involve entering the highway, consider taking a different type of transportation, such as a bus, or see if a friend or relative can take you to your destination.

If you can make it home without getting back on the highway, do so. Once you make it home, relax and try to find at least two alternative routes that will get you to your destination without involving the highway.

If driving back home isn’t an option, pull over to a safe location on the side of the highway and gather yourself. Listen to relaxing music and remain calm. Sit in this safe location until you feel you are ready to get back on the highway and travel to your destination. You can also call a friend or relative for help.

The Bottom Line

Sitting in traffic is one thing that probably ruins most people’s day. When you understand the traffic patterns in your city, you can plan your routes, avoid traffic, and minimize this frustration. Use the information above to help you create a route that works for you when the roads and highways are the most congested. Stay safe and happy travels!