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Written by
Julie Daniels
Motor insurance expert
24 JULY 2023
5 min read
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Navigating the Gridlock: The UK’s Traffic Hotspots

For drivers across the UK, getting stuck in traffic can be a real nuisance. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence in most cities across the country, and as a ​nation we spend an average of ​nine days per year commuting to work or school. So, when we hit traffic, it’s taking hours - or sometimes days - away from us.  

With this in mind, our latest research has looked into which UK cities see the worst traffic, taking into account factors such as what percent of the population commutes by car, the average distance per minute people tend to travel on their commute, and the traffic index of each city. We also looked at how many days we lose each year sitting in the car, commuting.

Our experts have also put together some top tips for staying calm while stuck in traffic, to help drivers and their loved ones stay safe on the roads.  

The UK's traffic hotspots

The worst areas for traffic in the UK 

​Swindon is ​​one of the worst traffic hotspots in the UK, which is perhaps unsurprising considering ​​86% of its residents commute by car - who in total, lose around ​11 full days per year sitting in the car, commuting. 

The city also has the fourth highest traffic index of all cities analysed, with a score of ​196 (​​Southend-on-Sea has the highest at ​226). ​Traffic indexes provide insights into the overall traffic conditions of a city, taking into account various factors such as commute time, dissatisfaction at being stuck in traffic, CO2 emissions, and overall traffic system inefficiencies.

With ​67% of the city’s population choosing to commute by car, ​Peterborough ranks as the ​second worst location in the UK for traffic. Residents in the city spend an average of ​12 days per year commuting, and is home to one of the highest traffic indexes, with a score of ​210.

In ​third place is ​​Bradford. A huge ​80% of residents commute by car, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the city’s roads get clogged up. Residents tend to spend around ​15 days a year commuting, and the city also has the second highest traffic index of all cities analysed, with a score of ​217.

Bedford and ​Huddersfield round off the list of top five worst traffic hotspots in the UK, spending an annual total of ​13 and ​14 days commuting, respectively .  

Best areas for traffic in the UK 

Dundee is ​one of the best locations for traffic in the UK, perhaps because only 29% of its residents travel by car. Drivers in the Scottish city only spend around​ four days commuting per year, and they also boast a very low traffic index, with a score of ​69, almost​ three times lower than that of Swindon.

In ​​second place is ​Blackpool, where only a quarter ​​(25%) of the population commutes by car - however, drivers in the city do spend around ​13 days commuting per year.  

​Colchester is in third place, boasting a traffic index score of just ​91. Just over a third ​(33%) of the city’s residents commute by car, and those that do​ spend just 3 days per week commuting – the lowest of all cities analysed.  

​Lancaster and ​Plymouth round off the top five cities with the best traffic conditions.  

Keep calm and carry on

Getting stuck in traffic can be incredibly frustrating, and our recent research found that as many as ​one in three (29%) drivers experience road rage because of slow driving. Following a few simple steps can help you to keep calm behind the wheel, ensuring you and your fellow drivers stay safe on the roads. 

1. Plan Ahead 

To minimise stress, plan your journey in advance and allow extra time for potential traffic jams. Knowing that you’ve factored in time for delays can help alleviate the pressure of being stuck in traffic. Additionally, explore alternative routes or use real-time traffic apps to avoid congested areas whenever possible.

2. Don’t drive tired 

Regardless of whether you’re stuck in traffic or not, it’s important that you are well rested before you drive. Make sure you get enough sleep the night before a long journey, and if you’ve had a particularly stressful day at work, don’t get in the car until you feel up to it.

Don’t be afraid to take a break if needed. Driving while tired could increase your susceptibility to irritability and distraction, and this could heighten emotions if you find yourself stuck in traffic.

3. Stay focused

When we’re stuck in traffic, often our minds have a tendency to wander. It’s so important to stay vigilant behind the wheel though, even if it feels like you’re barely moving. Keep music volumes down, maintain safe distances, and above all, don’t be tempted to reach for your phone, even if you are at a stand-still.  

4. Maintain perspective  

Getting stuck in traffic be frustrating, especially when you have somewhere you need to be. It’s okay to be frustrated, but take a moment to maintain a little perspective. While it might be a slight inconvenience, unexpected traffic jams happen to everyone, and you’re best letting these anxious feelings go.  

5. Be forgiving 

We can’t control the behaviour of others on the road, and with the heightened stress that traffic can add to our journey, we are often more susceptible to road rage. Just remember that no driver is perfect, and try to let go of any frustrations, so you can maintain your concentration and keep yourself and others safe on the roads.  

Sources & Methodology  

To determine the ranking of traffic hotspots, we used a series of traffic metrics from Numbeo for a seedlist of the most populated UK cities, and created an index based on:

  • Percent of residents that commute by car (higher percentages equate more traffic on the roads)  
  • Distance travelled per minute (slower speeds indicating less free-flowing/efficient traffic) based on:
    • Minutes spent per one-way commute  
    • Distance per one-way commute
  • Traffic score  

To determine how many days per year each city commutes, the number of working days were calculated by taking the number of working days (252) minus the UK minimum amount of annual leave of (20 days) equating to 232 working days per year.  

Note: cities that had 100% of people driving by car were removed due to the inaccuracy of the data 

Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie