Commuters Spend Billions Just Sitting in Traffic

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If you live in a major metropolitan area, you already know that you spend way too much time stuck in traffic.

All that traffic congestion costs $121 billion in wasted time and fuel, according to an annual study of national driving patterns released Tuesday.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute, funded by Road Builders, came up with what it calls the planning time index. The index is a mathematical way of looking at how much extra time is needed to add to your drive to account for you city's miserable traffic.

The Institute releases the annual report to help experts solve traffic problems. Every year the average American spends around one week in traffic. In a given week, that's an astounding 38 hours.

"It's more than the average person spends actually at their job," said Genevieve Brown, travel expert.

And it's torture commuters have to pay for. For the average American, it means $818 for the "privilege" of enduring daily traffic jams.

"People are becoming captive audiences in their cars. It's hard to plan and calculate their daily lives," Chris Plaushi, with AAA, said.

The worst traffic in the nation is found in Washington, D.C. The study found commuters need almost three hours for a trip that should take only 30 minutes.

The others were in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Boston.

For the millions who sit in traffic jams, these are hours that are often completely unproductive.

"Emailing and texting are not safe," Brown said.

The boom years of 2005 was still the worst year for traffic. Experts warn that if the economy picks up, the traffic will be even worse.

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