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Mapping the Course

Two sites in our roundup, MSN and Yahoo!, have free real-time traffic information. With MSN Maps & Directions, you choose a map of a very large "metro" area and then scroll down for a list of such notables as mountain pass conditions, road closures, and traffic incidents, with expected clearing times (although the word expected isn't there). Clicking a note on the list brings up the trouble spot on the map. MSN gives a good "big picture" of what's out there, so you're unlikely to be caught short if you happen to map an address that was just shy of a major incident. On the other hand, the picture focuses only on hazardous or inconvenient situations, and doesn't comment about traffic speeds on normal roads.

Yahoo! lays tiny speed-indicator colored squares along the map you called up for the trip to a motivational retreat at Tucheefeel Falls, so you see red for 0 mph, yellow for 35 mph, and green for 55+. The legend shows icons with exclamation points in triangles signifying hazards of varying severity. However, they didn't appear on the map in some places where MSN gave the addresses of hazards. To find both hazards and regular road speeds, you have to visit both sites.

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