FACT CHECK: Do Americans Spend 42 Hours Per Year Stuck In Traffic?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that Americans spend an average of 42 hours per year in traffic.

Verdict: True

Congestion estimates over the last decade show that the average American driver spends about 40 to 42 hours per year in traffic.

Fact Check:

Trump made the claim during a speech about infrastructure in Ohio. “Our roads are clogged,” he said. “Average drivers spend 42 hours every year stuck in traffic, costing us at least $160 billion annually.”

Those figures come from a report by Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute and INRIX, a transportation analytics company. In 2014, the average driver in the U.S. spent 42 hours per year delayed in traffic, costing consumers $160 billion in wasted fuel and time.

Texas A&M and INRIX found that congestion usually delayed drivers between 40 and 42 hours per year over the last decade. The estimate for 2015, 50 hours, was an outlier.

INRIX’s estimate for 2017 was slightly lower than Trump’s claim, at 41 hours per year, but still in the ballpark. The monetary cost was higher, though: $264 billion for the direct cost of wasted fuel and time and $305 billion when including indirect costs like higher freight truck fees.

According to INRIX, Los Angeles is the most congested city in the world. Drivers there spend an average of 102 hours per year in traffic. New York City came in third, at 91 hours.

TomTom, the car navigation company, also tracks city traffic congestion using GPS data. It does not calculate a national average, but its delay estimates for individual cities are higher than INRIX’s. TomTom finds that in 2016, congestion at peak hours caused drivers in Los Angeles to spend 170 extra hours in traffic; those in New York sat an additional 129 hours behind the wheel. The company determined that Mexico City is the most congested city in the world at 227 hours spent in traffic per year.

Some experts say that investing in roadway infrastructure by building more roads in growing areas or adding exit lanes to highways can help alleviate traffic. Among other solutions, the INRIX and Texas A&M report suggested increasing traffic capacity in critical corridors to decrease congestion.

Experts also recommend solutions that do not involve costly infrastructure construction. The Texas A&M and INRIX report suggested better-timed traffic signals, designating toll lanes, increasing public transportation use, zoning walkable neighborhoods with both commercial and residential space and allowing employees to work from home.

The Trump administration proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure development plan in February. White House officials do not expect Congress to approve the plan this year.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter