New research by in-car satellite navigation manufacturer TomTom has revealed that using your favourite shortcut or 'rat run' when the main roads become clogged with traffic could be adding time to your journey.
The firm's annual congestion report discovered that traffic jams in British cities have become worse over recent years, with average journeys in 2013 taking 27 per cent longer than they would in free-flowing traffic – up from 26 per cent in 2012.
But commuters convinced that secret shortcuts and clever 'rat runs' save time when the main roads become jammed could be fooling themselves, say the experts.
The TomTom research states: "Drivers using rat runs may actually be making their journeys slower. The data shows that local roads have twice as much lost travel time (32%) as main roads (15%)."
Julien Speed, a spokesperson for TomTom, told The Daily Mail: "Many motorists are very proud to tell others about their secret rat run that helps them avoid the worst of the rush-hour gridlock. But the reality is that it probably takes them longer."
"It may be counter-intuitive, but the satnavs really are more accurate. But when you are sitting in a jam it may not feel that way at the time," he said.
Researchers added that drivers prefer to 'feel' as if they are moving, even if the new route is longer and crawling at a slower rate than the main roads.
"Psychologically, people want to keep moving, or at least feel they are moving and in control. So they will often use their favourite rat run to 'get around' the problem, even if it takes longer or the traffic moves even slower on the local roads than on the major roads which they've just left. On average the local roads move at half the pace," Mr Speed added.
The research found that Belfast was the most congested city in the UK, while London and Edinburgh followed closely behind.
Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Leeds-Bradford and Sheffield were all noted as being some of the most congested cities in the UK.