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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Traffic Makes It Hard to Have a Social Life

Friendship, music, weekend getaways -- they're all apparently under assault. Traffic is no longer simply making people late for the occasional meeting; now it's taking a toll on their daily routines.

"We can't go out at night," said Maria Zinovyeva, a freelance writer who lives on Moscow's southern fringe.

Traveling down heavily clogged Volgogradsky Prospekt at rush hour is out of the question, she said. So, too, are salsa classes Wednesday night.

"It's really annoying," she said.

Quantifying the social cost of the city's traffic jams is impossible. What's clear is that a growing mass of Muscovites is finding it hard to leave their homes, get to work, go to the Bolshoi, escape the city.

In short, the city's failure in the 16 years since the Soviet collapse to build a better road network is being felt by millions in expected and unexpected ways.

Today, there are 3 million cars in Moscow. Every day, 200,000 of those clog the streets.

Compounding the congestion are the 1,200 reported accidents that tie up traffic every day. Worse yet, motorists are not allowed to move their cars once they've been in an accident, meaning a fender bender can block hundreds of cars before the traffic police finally turn up.

"I used to send my kids to music classes, but they were spending an hour in traffic just getting there," said one expatriate mother. "So we bought a piano, and now the teacher comes to us."

One French woman, Marie-Claire, lamented: "We won't be going back to the dacha this year because the traffic there and back is just horrendous."

Ksenia Kabanova, who sells advertising space at a women's magazine, said she had abandoned all hope of a social life. "It's not that I've given up doing things," the 25-year-old said. "I never even started."

She added: "It's catastrophic. I'm losing friends left and right."

Maxim Shishkin, who spends a good part of the day shuttling through the fumes and headaches of Moscow's stop-start streets, said, "Driving here isn't driving at all. It's crazy-making."

Psychologists say that's not just hot-tempered hyperbole.

Sergei Yenikolopov, a psychologist at the Moscow Center for Mental Health, said traffic jams can evoke powerful, irrational feelings in drivers who find themselves stuck in them.

"The frustration that comes from these sorts of traffic jams can stimulate aggression," Yenikolopov said. "And when you are stuck in one place for too long, this aggression turns into an anger that needs to find some way to be channeled."

This channeling, Yenikolopov said, can take many forms -- from illegally driving on the sidewalk to abusing colleagues verbally and even physically.

"When people who have been stuck in traffic finally get to work, they transfer their road rage onto the people they work with," he explained. "Families can suffer in the same way."

Then there's Irene Sokolov, 41. The single mother of two was so fed up with navigating Moscow's impossibly congested roads, she moved from the city edge to the city center -- cutting down her travel time but jeopardizing her kids' health.

While Sokolov now gets to spend as much as two extra hours each night with her children, ages 8 and 13, they're more likely to get sick from all the pollution, she says.

"If it means I can see my kids more often," Sokolov said, "I'm willing to put up with their colds."

Editor's note: This is the second of four reports about Moscow traffic jams.