How Bad Is Baltimore Traffic?

Baltimore is a manageable city to get around. The typical commute lasts around 31 minutes.
Written by Nathan Porceng
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
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Baltimore drivers lose 37 hours to congestion each year, according to a recent study—ranking the Charm City #16 among US cities with the worst traffic. 
Crab cakes and football might be the first things that come to mind when you think of
Baltimore, Maryland
, but there’s so much more to the historic city. It’s known for Fort McHenry—whose bombardment during the War of 1812 inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner”—and the National Aquarium. But you’re likely to encounter some pretty hefty traffic while traversing through Baltimore.
So just how bad is Baltimore traffic? We will key you in on everything you need to know when driving through Baltimore. We’ll check out traffic statistics in Baltimore, explore driving trends, and offer some tips for driving in and around the city. 
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How bad is Baltimore traffic?

The
2021 Global Traffic Scorecard
, a comprehensive study of traffic trends around the world, ranks Baltimore traffic 16th worst in the United States. The study’s analysts suggest that the average Baltimore driver loses 37 hours to congestion each year with a cost per driver of $577.
Public health restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic eased congestion on Baltimore roads. As those restrictions are lifted, expect more traffic jams and longer commute times in the city.
Year
Hours lost to congestion
2019
96 hours
2020
49 hours
2021
55 hours
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Why is Baltimore traffic so bad?

Many things may cause traffic congestion, including population, infrastructure, and driving habits. Here’s the scoop on what leads to traffic congestion in Baltimore.

Population size 

Baltimore has a population of around 585,000 people. Though that may sound like a lot, the city’s population has been steadily declining, reaching its lowest level in over a century. 
But while the population of the city proper is decreasing, Baltimore’s suburbs have seen an influx of new residents—most notably in Howard County. If these trends continue, drivers may see fewer traffic jams in downtown Baltimore but more severe congestion in surrounding areas.

Major chokepoints

Numerous major highways run through and around Baltimore. Much of the worst traffic occurs on I-695, the Baltimore Beltway. Pre-pandemic, over 216,000 cars per day traversed the 0.4 mile stretch of I-695 southbound between Security Boulevard and I-70. 
Outside the Beltway, I-95 north at Route 100 also ranks as one of the area’s worst traffic chokepoints.

Driving habits

The average Baltimorean drives 31 minutes to and from work each day, which is about five minutes longer than the national average. To curb commute times, the Maryland government plans to add 27 miles of highway lanes on the Beltway and I-95 north. The state also plans to add four toll lanes on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway at a cost of $1.4 billion.
MORE: The best type of car insurance to get if you commute long distances
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How to navigate Baltimore traffic like a pro

Traffic congestion doesn't just make for
frustration
and inconvenience, it can also lead to devastating car accidents. 
According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, fatal car crashes are on the rise in Baltimore. The city saw 68 fatalities in 2020, up from 49 the year prior.  Even if a car crash isn’t fatal, you may still pay a
hefty price
—both physically and financially. 
That said, abiding by a few simple tips can help you navigate the streets of Baltimore safely and keep your insurance rates low. Here’s how:
  • Avoid rush hour. Baltimore’s peak rush hours are between 7am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm. Per 30 minute trip, congestion in the city costs commuters 5 minutes in the morning and 9 minutes in the evening.
  • Check ahead.
    WBAL
    maintains a live traffic tracker that lets you check hotspots before you leave your home or work, saving you frustration and valuable time.
  • Stay focused. Sometimes traffic jams are unavoidable. When you find yourself in one, it’s important to keep your mind on the task at hand.
    Distracted driving
    —including listening to loud music or checking your cell phone—can lead to accidents and cost you dearly.

Prepare for Baltimore traffic by updating your car insurance

While Baltimore is not the worst city to drive through, it can be challenging. So it’s important to
update your car insurance policy
to ensure you have the coverage you need for driving in the Charm City.
With
Jerry
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No long forms, no phone calls, no hassles. The average Jerry user saves $887 a year. That’s $310 more than the average annual cost of sitting in Baltimore traffic!
“I had a great experience using
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for the first time. Once my boyfriend buys his new car, we’ll use Jerry together to make sure he doesn’t end up overpaying on new insurance!”  —Stephanie S.
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FAQs

Baltimore traffic ranks as the 16th worst in the United States. Use GPS navigation and avoid distractions while driving through the city.
To avoid rush hour traffic, it’s best to drive through the city before 7am, after 6pm, or between 9am and 4pm.
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