How Bad Is Denver Traffic?

Denver has the 15th worst traffic of any city in America, with an average of 40 hours lost to traffic in 2021.
Written by Macy Fouse
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
According to recent statistics, Denver drivers lose around 40 hours to traffic every year, ranking it No. 15 among U.S. cities with the worst congestion.
Denver, Colorado has it all: museums, professional sports, culture, music, and art. There’s no wonder it was named one of the best places to live in America. From its strong job market to its foodie scene—and of course, the stunning nearby mountains—Denver has it all, including not-so-great traffic.
How bad is the traffic, really? Here to outline the details of Colorado’s worst traffic city is
, the #1-rated
car insurance
app and driving expert. We’ll take you through Denver’s traffic statistics, changes post-COVID-19, and highway congestion workarounds. And as a bonus, we'll show you how to save on your
Denver car insurance costs

How bad is Denver traffic?

2021 Global Traffic Scorecard
—a huge international study of traffic trends—reported Denver traffic is the 15th-most congested in the U.S. Traffic analysts calculated that the average Denver driver loses 40 hours to traffic every year, costing each driver about $631.
The stats from the last two years look better than previous years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but things are quickly getting back to normal when it comes to road congestion. Drivers are hopping back in their cars to commute to and from work, and health restrictions are easing up, helping Denver reclaim its notoriety for bad traffic.
Hours lost to congestion
63 hours
24 hours
40 hours
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Why is Denver traffic so bad?

Traffic can be caused by a number of factors, like a city’s total population, residents’ driving behaviors, and the area’s infrastructure. Here are some of the key factors influencing Denver’s traffic problems. 

Population size 

Denver is America’s 19th-biggest city and the biggest city in Colorado. Around 706,000 people call the Denver metropolitan area home—and about 70% of them drive alone to and from work every day. Even without any other factors, the sheer number of cars on Denver’s major thoroughfares cause huge amounts of traffic jams and delays.

Bottleneck points

Three highway junctions in Denver landed among the top 100
worst bottleneck points
in the country: 
  • I-70 at I-25
  • I-70 at I-270
  • I-25 at I-76
These bottlenecks majorly slow down traffic, creating congestion for miles. 

Road construction

Denver’s population is one of the fastest-growing in the country, and transportation advancements in the city haven’t been able to keep up. The roadways in Denver are constantly under construction, leading to lane shutdowns and construction zone speeds. 
Colorado’s snowy weather also plays a role. When roads freeze and thaw often, the pavement cracks and major potholes develop—leading to even more construction. 
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How to navigate Denver traffic like a pro

Major congestion isn’t just a source of
road rage
and chronic tardiness—it also causes more car accidents. 
According to the
Colorado Department of Transportation
, the number of deadly crashes in 2021 was at an all-time high with 672 fatalities. Even without fatalities, car accidents can cause major damage—physically and financially—and may
increase your insurance rates
Despite these shocking numbers, you aren’t doomed to endure Denver’s congestion. Here are a few tips to navigate the Mile High City with ease—and to protect yourself and your wallet:
  • Avoid rush hour if possible. Denver’s peak rush hours are between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Don’t commute during these times if at all possible.
  • Use alternative routes. Major highways might seem like the most straightforward way to get from point A to point B, but heavy congestion will prove otherwise. Try to navigate around traffic hotspots by using less-traveled roads.
  • Consult a traffic app to stay up to date. Apps like Waze provide real-time updates on traffic jams, accidents, construction, and other delays, so you can avoid the unexpected.
  • Stay alert. No one can avoid traffic jams all the time, so it’s important to be focused when you end up in one. Avoid
    driving distractions
    like food, loud music, or using your phone. Remember to always leave plenty of space between your car and other drivers!

Prepare for Denver traffic by updating your car insurance

Whether you’re planning a trip to Denver or you’re one of the thousands of commuters on the interstates, it’s a smart idea to make sure you have an up-to-date car insurance policy. That way, you’ll be covered for accidents that come along with bad traffic.
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Navigating Denver’s roadways is fairly straightforward if you use GPS navigation and pay attention to the road.
To avoid the city’s ever-present traffic, Denver’s best travel hour is 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. on a Friday.
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