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Traffic congestion is a condition on networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased queueing. The most common example is the physical use of roads by vehicles. When traffic demand is great enough that the interaction between vehicles slows the speed of the traffic stream, congestion is incurred. As demand approaches the capacity of a road (or of the intersections along the road), extreme traffic congestion sets in. When vehicles are fully stopped for periods of time, this is colloquially known as a traffic jam. Traffic congestion occurs when a volume of traffic or modal split generates demand for space greater than the available road capacity. There are a number of specific circumstances which cause or aggravate congestion; most of them reduce the capacity of a road at a given point or over a certain length, or increase the number of vehicles required for a given throughput of people or goods. About half of U.S. traffic congestion is recurring, and is attributed to sheer weight of traffic; most of the rest is attributed to traffic incidents, road works and weather events. Speed and flow can also affect network capacity though the relationship is complex.

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