How Bad Is Birmingham Traffic?

Drivers in Birmingham lose 55 hours a year stuck in traffic, and it’ll probably get worse.
Written by Matt Nightingale
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Drivers in Birmingham lose approximately 55 hours a year stuck in traffic. Not bad when you consider that in places like Atlanta, drivers spend 81 hours per year in gridlock!
Of course, it's all relative, and when you're stuck in the Friday evening rush hour on the 280 below The Summit, thinking about how your uncle in
has it worse is cold comfort.
So, what makes Birmingham’s traffic so darn tedious? Certified broker and
car insurance
comparison app
is here to give you the lowdown on road congestion in Magic City. We’ll talk traffic stats, share some helpful tips for getting around, and even discuss how B’ham’s traffic jams affect your
Birmingham car insurance costs

How bad is Birmingham traffic?

Traffic in Birmingham is actually better than it was prior to the pandemic. Before COVID-19 lockdowns, Birminghamians spent approximately 86 hours stuck in traffic every year, at an average annual cost of $990 per person. As a whole,
lost about $1.8 billion annually in economic costs due to traffic congestion.
These numbers did go down for the years 2020 and 2021, but as life returns to normal, Birmingham residents can expect traffic congestion to return to normal, as well.
Hours lost to congestion
86 hours
47 hours
55 hours
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Why is Birmingham traffic so bad?

The Birmingham metro center is Alabama’s largest city and home to over one million residents. With that many people, you're bound to see a lot of accidents and bottlenecks, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. 
But there are other factors that contribute to Birmingham’s traffic problems, too.

Poor Infrastructure

Deteriorating infrastructure contributes to many traffic snarls in Birmingham.
A recent study
by the non-profit organization TRIP found 43 bridges in Birmingham to be structurally deficient. Weight restrictions are often put on structurally deficient bridges, which in turn causes traffic congestion as large slow-moving trucks reroute.
Poorly maintained roads cause congestion, as well—vehicles damaged by potholes block lanes and overdue maintenance closes off entire stretches of road. 
At the same time, Birmingham has struggled to effectively deal with an increase in traffic caused by population growth. In short, more people driving on the same amount of poorly maintained roads is a recipe for traffic jams.
Key Takeaway Poor infrastructure has been a major contributor to traffic congestion in Birmingham.

Major chokepoints

Birmingham has limited options for north-south traffic. Residents basically have two main arteries to choose from: I-65 and Highway 280. A lot of rush hour traffic clogs these two major roadways.
One place to definitely avoid during rush hour times is the intersection at I-65 and I-20. Average off-hour speeds through that intersection clock in at 54 miles per hour, but during rush hour times, that average speed drops to 47 miles per hour due to congestion.

Driving habits

Birmingham has one of the highest accident rates in the country with 13.7 deaths per 100,000 people—almost twice the national average. The average Birmingham resident loses $307 every year to accident expenses. 
Speeding is one of the main culprits behind these incidents in Birmingham, and Alabama at large has high rates of distracted driving and DUIs.
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How to navigate Birmingham traffic like a pro

While Birmingham’s traffic can be painfully slow at times, there are some things you can do to avoid the congestion. Here are a few tips on how to navigate Birmingham’s traffic like a seasoned veteran.
  • Avoid driving during rush hour. Birmingham’s morning rush stretches from about 6:30 to 9 a.m., and the evening rush lasts from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. But the absolute worst time to drive in Birmingham is after 5 p.m. on a Friday.
  • Take back roads where possible. Birmingham sees a lot of traffic flowing south in the early evenings, and there are only two main arteries to handle it all (280 and I-65). Consider taking side roads, especially if you are planning to venture south past The Summit. That’s where traffic on 280 can really turn bad.
  • Use a traffic app. The
    ALGO app
    gives live updates on road closures, traffic flow, and construction for Birmingham. You can also tune into
    News Radio 105.5 WERC
    for regular traffic updates.
  • Keep your cool. If you do find yourself in a jam, stay cool. Traffic snarls can be frustrating, but the best course of action is to stay focused and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. The last thing you want is to get into an accident because you were distracted or driving impatiently.

Prepare for Birmingham traffic by updating your car insurance

With the kind of congestion that Birmingham sees, accidents are inevitable. Statistically speaking, 98% of Birmingham drivers will experience an accident in their lifetime. The average driver in Birmingham loses $307 in costs associated with car accidents every year, so you’ll want to make sure you have the right insurance coverage. 
Alabama state law requires drivers to carry minimum
liability coverage
with $25,000 in bodily injury liability per accident, $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident, and $25,000 property damage liability per accident. But, liability coverage only pays for damage to other people’s cars, not yours. To protect your vehicle, you’ll need additional insurance, like
collision coverage
full-coverage car insurance
If you want to save money on your policy, the Jerry app is a good place to start. A licensed broker,
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The worst traffic in Birmingham is found on the two main north-south arteries: the I-65 and the U.S. Highway 280.
The worst time to drive in Birmingham is Friday after 5 p.m.
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