However, thanks to new technology which has gone on trial this week, drivers will now at least know for sure how long the hold-up is likely to be.
Using traffic cameras which read number plates, the city's transport experts will relay information to electronic message boards which give estimated journey times.
The idea shares with drivers information which those at the council's transport control centre have long had at their fingertips.
Two signs are already up and running – on the A71 at Calder junction and the A8 at Gogar roundabout – while a third sign on the A8 near Ingliston will also come on stream shortly. If the trial proves successful, transport bosses hope to introduce more of the signs across the city as well as using the journey information on the council's website.
Neil Greig, a spokesman for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "The key use for this information is really about what you can do about it. Can you take an alternative route or alternative form of transport?
"At the moment, being told you're delayed will help reduce stress and road rage, but the information is most useful when it gives you a different option."
The council said no money was being spent on the technology because it already existed within the control centre and the signs had been in operation previously for other purposes.
If the initial trial is successful, the information will be extended to other main traffic routes where both journey time information and the signs are available, with the A90, A7 and A701 next in line.
The technology works using three rings of cameras from the edge of the Capital into the city centre which read number plates and send the information to a central computer. The computer then looks for matches from other cameras on the route to calculate how long the journey has taken between cameras.
Gordon Mackenzie, the city's transport convener, said: "We're making good use of existing technology and resources to offer drivers a useful service and, potentially, reduce congestion.
"Assuming the ongoing success of the trial, I look forward to rolling out the service to other major roads across the city."