With traffic, comes stress, violence

When you hear the word “traffic,” you might think of the seminal rock band led by Steve Winwood.

Or you might think of it as a verb, relating to drugs or arms. But if you live in Los Angeles, however, every resident will immediately call to mind the soul-crushing experience of feeling trapped in their car, stuck on the 405, 101, 110, 710, 134, 210 – any of the numbers that represent the clogged arteries of our fair city.

Los Angeles takes the global traffic crown, according to a new study by Inrix, a transportation analytics firm. Comparing over 1,000 cities across the planet, Los Angeles tops them all with 104 hours a year spent driving in congestion during peak travel times.

The average for U.S. cities overall was 42 hours a year, so we’re more than double the average here in Los Angeles. A close second? Moscow, at 91 hours, in third, New York with 89 hours.

Sitting in traffic is frustrating, for sure, but that frustration follows some drivers out of the car and into their homes. And this can be dangerous.

For more on the effects, listen below:

Two professors of economics at Louisiana State University, Louis-Philippe Beland and Daniel Brent authored a paper titled Traffic and Crime.hey found that on extreme traffic days, which happen about fifteen times a year, there is a 6 percent increase in domestic violence. This is the first time any hard data has been directly correlated to traffic data to quantify specific effects.

Previously the impact of traffic has been analyzed by surveys of people recording their feelings provoked by experiencing traffic – a highly subjective survey. This new study is unique. Brent says the goal of the study was to try and find an indication of the actual impact of traffic on people, rather than rely on anecdotal reporting of the impact.

“The notion that we think that people sit in traffic and all of a sudden there’s a crime wave is not really the point of the paper,” Brent says. “Rather that this is one way where we can detect some psychological stress of traffic, which has been established in survey data, but not really using what economists call observational data, so actually seeing what they’re doing as opposed to what they’re saying.”