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By R.E. Fulton
Updated on Jun 1, 2022
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett, Senior Editor.
Drivers in Atlanta lose about 53 hours to congestion each year, according to a recent study—which makes Georgia’s capital #10 among US cities with the worst traffic.
Atlanta, Georgia is a beautiful Southern city, canopied with majestic oaks and flowering dogwoods and home to a metropolitan population of over six million. It’s known for its rich history, world-class museums, and, yes—its bad traffic.
But just how bad is Atlanta traffic? Here to break down the ins and outs of Georgia’s worst rush-hour city is Jerry, the #1 rated insurance app and the pocket-sized broker every car owner needs. We’ll take a look at traffic statistics in Atlanta, see how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected driving trends, and go over tips for navigating the South’s worst traffic like a pro.
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How bad is Atlanta traffic?
According to the 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard, a massive international study of traffic trends, Atlanta traffic is the 10th worst in the United States. Transportation analysts estimated that the average Atlanta driver loses 53 hours to congestion each year, with a cost per driver of $820.
Those numbers are down from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic—but up from 2020. As drivers return to their regular commutes with the loosening of public health restrictions, Atlanta traffic is regaining its reputation for congestion.
|Year||Hours lost to congestion|
Why is Atlanta traffic so bad?
Traffic congestion is a function of many factors, including a city’s overall population, the quality of infrastructure, and the driving habits of residents. Here are a few reasons why Atlanta ranks so high among cities with terrible traffic.
The city of Atlanta is the heart of the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the United States, home to over six million people. Of those six million people, over 75% drive to and from work each day, either alone or in a carpool. That means that millions of drivers take to Atlanta’s complex freeway system each day, leading to frequent delays and jams.
Three major highways converge in Atlanta: I-20, I-75, and I-85. The 7.5-mile stretch where I-75 and I-85 meet is called the Downtown Connector, and it’s notorious as one of the worst bottlenecks in the United States. Counterintuitive exit directions, multiple lane changes, and tight weaves around the Grady Curve make the Downtown Connector a major hotspot for traffic snarls.
Another major chokepoint for Atlanta traffic is Spaghetti Junction, a flyover highway interchange at the intersection of I-85 and I-285 where studies have shown major delays for heavy-duty truckers that rival any in the nation.
Although Atlanta’s population puts it in the top ten US metropolitan areas, it’s not a very dense city, at just 3,924 people per square mile. This means a lot of long commutes across the metropolitan area—which leads to serious traffic problems. In 2019, over 20% of Atlanta commuters traveled 90 minutes or more to get to work each day, which increases the chances of accidents, congestion, and serious delays.
How to navigate Atlanta traffic like a pro
Bad traffic isn’t just a recipe for brain-melting frustration and late arrivals—it can also lead to a high rate of traffic accidents.
According to data from the Georgia Department of Transportation, although the city’s overall crash rate went down in 2020, fatal crashes were up from 46 to 53. Even a non-fatal crash can cause serious headaches—both financial and literal—and even cause your car insurance rate to shoot up.
Despite the grim statistics, it’s possible to avoid the worst of Atlanta’s traffic congestion and keep yourself and your wallet safe. Here are a few tips to follow if you want to navigate the Downtown Connector like a traffic pro:
- Steer clear of rush hour if possible. Atlanta’s rush hours run from about 6am to 10am in the morning and 3pm to 7pm in the evening. If you can’t completely avoid those times, try to stay off the roads between 7-8am and 5-6pm, when the city sees 5.1% and 5.8% of its daily traffic volume, respectively.
- Take back roads when you can. The Downtown Connector and the I-285 Perimeter might seem like the quickest way to get around Atlanta, but the opposite might be true if you run into heavy traffic. Check to see if you can get to your destination using smaller roads instead of highways.
- Use a traffic app to stay ahead of the unexpected. WSB-TV offers a traffic app that allows you to see real-time updates on accidents, construction, and other changes in traffic patterns.
- Stay focused. If you do end up in a traffic jam, drive smart by avoiding distractions such as food, loud music or podcasts, or using your cell phone—and always leave plenty of distance between you and other cars!
Prepare for Atlanta traffic by updating your car insurance
If you’re planning a trip to Atlanta, or if you commute daily through Spaghetti Junction, it’s a good idea to update your car insurance policy to make sure you’re covered for the kinds of accidents that bad traffic can cause.
Jerry makes it easy. When you download the #1 rated insurance app, it takes Jerry just 45 seconds to find customized quotes from 50+ top insurance providers. With help from a world-class team of insurance experts, you could have your new policy in place within an hour or less—with no phone calls, no unnecessary forms, and no long wait times!
And the best part? Jerry users save an average of $887 a year. That’s more than the average annual cost of sitting in Atlanta traffic!
“Jerry is a great product with great customer service! The quote comparison found me lots of options in Georgia.” —Gregory K.
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Is Atlanta hard to drive in?
If you’re not used to the tight, congested snarls of Atlanta’s highway system, it can be a daunting place to drive. Be sure to use GPS navigation and avoid distractions when you’re hitting the roads for the first time in the ATL.
What is the best time to drive through Atlanta?
If you want to avoid rush hour, it’s best to drive through the city before 6am, after 7pm, or between 10am and 3pm.