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Why do traffic jams happen and how can they be mitigated?

Find out more below!

Dan and Bex are on a road trip. With more cars on the road than ever before – and many more planned, they’re thinking about what helps ease the load on the roads.

Traffic jams aren’t just annoying – they cause pollution and can cost drivers a lot of money.

Congestion costs the country billions of pounds each year! And with around half a million new vehicles each year, managing the roads is more important than ever!

The problem of too much traffic is relatively new – for centuries, there just wasn’t enough traffic to cause problems – well apart from in big cities.

And whilst in the future we may be convinced to use other forms of transport, the problem’s unlikely to go away.

That’s why it’s important to understand what causes congestion, and doing what we can do manage the load on the roads.

There are many roads today that aren’t big enough to cope with the amount of vehicles that are now using them.

This can cause what planners call pinch points. You might know about places near where you live that regularly get snarled up. And without major re-planning, it can be difficult to get around these sorts of problems.

On busy highways and motorways, it’s sometimes possible to keep things moving by reducing the speed limit, allowing a smaller number of cars to use the road at a time or by letting drivers use the hard shoulder – that’s the emergency lane on the left hand side.

Things going wrong is another cause of congestion. Maybe a car broke down, or there’s been an accident. This problem can be tackled by putting things right as quickly as possible – using cameras to see what’s happened and getting emergency vehicles on the scene super fast.

It’s not just on the road where technology can help keep things moving. Apps, satnav and even the technology inside our cars, can give us information about what’s going on, and help get around or even solve problems.

Using technology might even be able to predict problems before they happen by tracking the traffic and looking for patterns.

MOBILE: Kids Guide to Transport: Rail and Road

Bex and Dan learn all about the future of Britain's roads and railways!

Are We There Yet? with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering

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Road to 2050

Find out more about why roads are built and how they help us get around the country.

More From Road to 2050