Drivers in Duluth, Minnesota are experiencing a new problem that they had not planned on due to work that began on a stretch of highway. When a problem seems to appear unexpectedly, we refer to this as a snag. In French you would refer to this as un pépin. Work on this segment of road, or stretch, is causing a trafficsnarl. In other words, it complicates the movement of traffic making it difficult, if not impossible, to move.
When traffic moves slowly and you follow very closely the car in front of you and there is also a car following you very closely in the rear, we call this bumper-to-bumper traffic. This is often experienced during the morning and afternoonrush , when everyone is on the road going to and from work in the morning and evening. Your bumper is that long piece of metal or plastic attached to the front and back of your car to protect it if it hits or bumps anything.
Because of the road work, traffic has slowed down to a stop-and-go crawl. This of course describes the action of slowly moving forward in short movements while constantly having to brake in order to avoid hitting the car in front of you. During rush hour, traffic usually slows to a crawl.
When there are a lot of cars on the road due to the morning or evening rush, we call this commuter traffic. A commuter is someone who travels to and from work by car, by train or by bus. Some American cities have tried to improve their traffic problems by putting in place HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes. Usually this is the farthest lane on the left which is reserved for cars with 2 or more people in them. The HOV lane was designed to encourage carpooling, the act of sharing cars to get to and from work. If you are caught driving in this lane without passengers, you will get stopped and fined by the police. Some, however, have tried to trick the police by disguising a mannequin to appear as a sleeping passenger!
OTHER VOCABULARY FOUND IN THE TEXT
the interstate – an American term for the motorway or highway because they cross state lines.
northbound, southbound, etc.. (adj.) – moving towards the north, south, etc..
a motorist – someone who drives a car
an off-ramp – a road that leads off a huge highway (opposite = an on-ramp)
a block – an area of buildings in a city with roads on all four sides (un pâté)
pavement (American – uncountable) – the surface of the road (NOTE: in British English the pavement, now a countable noun, refers to the ‘le trottoir’)
an intersection – where two or more roads join or cross each other.