We’ve all experienced South Carolina traffic – one minute you’re cruising and the next you’re halting to a stop. In the United States, the typical driver lost 51 hours in congestion alone, according to 2023 data from INRIX. Sitting in traffic can be a frustrating experience, especially if you’re running late. 

While sitting in traffic, you may be wondering what is causing the backup of cars. Let’s dive into the reasons for traffic, how we can help prevent traffic jams, and the tie between traffic and car accidents. 

How Does Traffic Start?

There are various reasons why traffic may form. Let’s review some of the most common causes of traffic.

  1. Car Accidents

You may suspect a car accident to be the cause of traffic, and many times that’s true. In fact, 25% of traffic jams can be attributed to car accidents. Car accidents can cause traffic for various reasons – many drivers close to the crash scene have to stop, slow down, or move over to avoid being involved in the accident. In addition, cars behind the scene have to move over to allow emergency vehicles to get to the accident scene. This can clearly cause a build up, impacting the flow of traffic. 

Car accidents also frequently lead to “rubbernecking,” a term used to refer to people who slow down to look at the accident scene, disrupting the traffic flow.

  1. Construction

Road/highway maintenance such as paving and other activity can also cause traffic, as drivers have to slow down and use extra caution while driving within the work zone. In addition to the natural slowing down in construction zones, accidents in the construction zone may also cause traffic.

It’s important to remember that these projects are often in progress to reduce traffic and congestion in the future.

  1. Weather Conditions

Poor weather conditions, such as rain, can quickly interrupt the flow of traffic as drivers slow down and keep greater following distances. It is recommended to drive under the speed limit during hazardous weather conditions to help prevent accidents.

  1. Congestion/Saturation

Sometimes there are simply too many cars on the road. A natural slowdown occurs when the number of vehicles on the road is larger than the available space on the road. 

  1. Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents, thus considerably contributing to traffic. Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be considered a distraction, such as using a cell phone, eating while driving, talking to others in the car, reaching for an object, etc.

Did You Know? In South Carolina, it is unlawful to use a wireless electronic device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways, according to SC Code Section 56-5-3890.

  1. Phantom Traffic

A phantom traffic jam happens when one car slows down, causing the car behind them to slow down, continuing to form a chain reaction or domino effect that gets worse the farther it spreads. This creates traffic on its own even without the event of an accident, construction, or other factor. Phantom traffic is also referred to as a “shockwave” jam.

The solution to phantom traffic is leaving adequate space between your car and the car in front of you. Try using the two-second rule, keeping two seconds of space between your car and the car ahead of you.

How We Can Help Prevent Traffic

Now that we understand some of the common causes of traffic, let’s discuss how we can reduce traffic jams in our state. 

First, we can consider technology as a possible solution. Advanced safety features in vehicles such as adaptive cruise control and self-driving cars can help ensure drivers keep a safe distance from other vehicles. Another tech-savvy solution is using data sensors and GPS systems to optimize traffic light signals. 

In addition, other solutions include expanding highways, improving or building upon public transportation, increasing freight rail capacity to reduce the number of trucks on the road, implementing high-occupancy vehicle lanes, utilizing traffic tracking apps, and more. Ride-sharing and carpooling is also a simple solution that can reduce the number of cars on the road.

The Link Between Traffic and Car Accidents

South Carolina is consistently ranked amongst the top states with the most fatal car accidents, largely due to distracted driving and drunk driving accidents. With rural and city areas, car accidents in South Carolina are not uncommon. 

When you’re a commuter in a city such as Columbia or Charleston, the chances of being hit by another vehicle are relatively high. Let’s discuss how being stuck in traffic impacts your risks of being involved in a car accident.

When in traffic, drivers often:

  • Start to drive distracted. They may begin scrolling through social media, watching videos, texting, or putting on makeup to pass the time.
  • Begin tailgating the vehicle in front of them, leading to rear end collisions.
  • Illegally pass cars on the shoulder of the road, such as in the emergency lane.
  • Illegally U-turn.
  • Ignore traffic signals such as red lights and stop signs.

While these seem to be common reactions to being stuck in traffic and drivers may think it’s okay since cars are moving slower, they are very dangerous decisions that can lead to accidents, risking increased traffic, serious injuries, and even loss of life.

What To Do If You’ve Been Involved in a Car Accident

Our law firm helps people across the state of South Carolina who have been injured in car accidents. Whether you’ve recently been injured or have been fighting the insurance company on your own and aren’t where you want to be, we are here to help. To learn more about your legal rights and options under SC law, call our office today at (803) 888-2200. We’re happy to talk to you about the next steps and answer any questions you may have.

Additional Helpful Resources:

2023 Car Accident Guide: Recovering From a South Carolina Crash

How To Get a Copy of Your Accident Report in South Carolina.