Waze GPS & Traffic App: Does It Really Work?

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Waze App50 Waze to Lose Your Traffic Nightmares

My husband used to have a commute that took exactly 5 minutes. He came home for lunch most days.

It’s one of the main reasons I was worried about moving to a larger city with… gulp… a much longer commute. Currently his 14 mile drive in rush hour can turn into a nightmare in the Charlotte area both coming and going.

Does the Waze App Really Help with Heavy Commuting Traffic? 

He’s been raving about this new app he found called Waze. It’s a free GPS navigator available on Android, iPhone and Windows. But it’s one step more than JUST a nice voice suggesting turn here or gently coaxing you to make a U-Turn because you missed the exit. It’s a social app that acts a bit like a community of friends crowdsourcing your commute. It literally helps circumnavigate traffic problems and other obstacles on the road like police action, accidents or debris on the road.

Waze App

Send a traffic report via the WAZE app

And it’s surprisingly accurate!

What is The Waze App?

Direct from Waze.com

“By connecting drivers to one another, we help people create local driving communities that work together to improve the quality of everyone’s daily driving.

After typing in their destination address, users just drive with the app open on their phone to passively contribute traffic and other road data, but they can also take a more active role by sharing road reports on accidents, police traps, or any other hazards along the way, helping to give other users in the area a ‘heads-up’ about what’s to come.

Imagine millions of drivers out on the roads, working together towards a common goal: to outsmart traffic and get everyone the best route to work and back, every day.

Get alerted before you approach police, accidents, road hazards or traffic jams, all shared by other drivers in real-time. It’s like a personal heads-up from a few million of your friends on the road.

Waze App

No surprises en route with the Waze app

An active community of Waze map editors works to constantly improve and update Waze’s maps. That’s why they’re the first to reflect changes happening in your neighborhood, constantly improving routing for everyone.”

Navigate to the cheapest station on your route, all powered by community-shared gas prices. By working together to report prices at the pump, Waze drivers can always save some gas money.”

I was skeptical. Sure it suggested taking a back road option past 2 exits before getting on the freeway home. I understand the app can pinpoint heavy traffic. But so can other GPS apps.

A GoodNCrazy Test Drive

Last weekend we were driving a substantial distance back home. I watched closely how the app worked as we drove. It’s a little cutesy, with cartoon images and pop ups sharing information about the road ahead.

I have to admit I was very impressed.

Alert: debris on the road ahead.

I scanned the road ahead and sure enough… about 2 minutes later I watched as several vehicles ahead of me swerved just a bit to avoid a large piece of blown out tire in the middle of a 3 lane highway. Not us… we knew it was coming and prepared to shift lanes in advance.

Waze App

Waze social GPA map and traffic app image showing a minor accident

Alert: vehicle on side of road ahead. 

Again…a few minutes in our future there was a car pulled way off the road. Nothing to make you swerve or anything. But it WAS there. Like an I-Spy game!

Alert: police activity ahead.

Yup. Just around the corner some poor soul was pulled over having a lovely chat with a very stern looking officer.

How Well does Waze give Roadtrip Support? 

The real test came later when we realized we would be hitting Charlotte rush hour traffic smack dab in the middle of the worst bumper to bumper. Should we pull off and grab an early dinner to avoid it? No. We just wanted to get home after a long weekend.

We let the Waze app do its thing.

First there was a bottleneck at a bridge crossing and while it didn’t re-route us around the delay, it DID tell us there would be a 6 minute slow down. It was accurate within one or 2 minutes. And sometimes when you are at a near stop on a freeway, just KNOWING how long the delay will take is like being given a golden ticket.

It showed on the little map where the speeds would pick up again and that part was dead accurate.

And to finish off the roadtrip, Waze suggested we take the business loop around what we always thought was FAR out of our way. It ended up having no congestion, normal freeway speeds the rest of the way and I think we might have added a paltry 5 miles to our overall trip. Had we stayed on the main direct freeway it would have taken double the time and triple the frustration I’m sure!


How Safe is it to use Waze while Driving? 

Waze App

The Waze icons are cutesy but the info is current and useful

I have no problem opening the app BEFORE I start the engine; plugging in a destination then allowing it to passively collect data from my phone while I drive which is then shared to other drivers.  But I do not interact with the app when I’m driving alone. 

If there is a passenger I encourage them to add traffic details or confirm obstacles as we pass them.

Ryan Holeywell wrote in Governing.com about his experiments using a purely voice activated version of Waze. He wasn’t very successful. And while the Waze company wants you to be safe while driving AND using their app, everyone should take their own precautions and follow laws about driving ‘hands-free’.

He wrote “one wonders if Waze users could one day find themselves afoul of the law as states continue to crack down on distracted driving. Indeed, many states have laws against texting and driving, but they generally aren’t designed to cover app use. That could be changing. Last year, under a law typically used to deter texting and driving, a California man was ticketed for looking at a map on his cellphone while behind the wheel. Two courts sided with the cops.”

I’d love to know who else is using this app. Does it work well? Do you feel it is a safe app? Are you surprised that it can tell you about debris on the road?! Are you worried about the passive big brother watching where you are driving thing? Cuz, at first I thought that was kind of creepy.

After watching it save our roadtrip-bacon — I’m thrilled it knows what speed I’m traveling and that it can talk me home much faster too!

Disclosure: Waze does not know I am a new convert to the ways of the Waze. I am genuinely happy to share my experience with this app. It’s free. Test it and let us know. 


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Carissa Rogers was a molecular biologist in her former life, but now she is the chief researcher of bloggy... More about Carissa Rogers