The solution to avoiding Bangkok traffic jams — and sketchy taxi and tuktuk drivers alike — is to use the city's entirely respectable rail system (either the elevated BTS or underground/elevated MRT). During peak morning and evening commute times, these metro systems can be crowded, but they are modern, clean, and fast; they're really not slow. When traveling anywhere, it is wise to leave preconceived notions at home.
Basically, any hotel within walking distance to a BTS station or MRT station will work. However, if you're primarily interested in first visit to Bangkok tourist attractions, these mostly are in the core of the city, and a hotel in a central neighborhood would be the best choice.
Different neighborhoods have a bit of a different vibe, but popular areas include Silom, Sukhumvit/Asok, Chit Lom/Siam, Sanam Chai (Old City), and Wat Mangkorn (Chinatown).
Silom and Sukhumvit/Asok are popular with foreigners (farang) for business and monkey business alike. Chit Lom/Siam is the center of the BTS system and one of the city's major shopping districts. For those who consider nightlife or shopping — especially luxury shopping — to be primary objectives, these areas would be a top choice.
Sanam Chai (Old City) and Wat Mangkorn (Chinatown) are in the heart of the historical district. Most of the major tourist attractions are nearby and these MRT stations themselves are attractive in their own right. If you want to walk to the Grand Palace, the four most popular temples, and Chinatown's famous street food on Yaowarat, you should stay in this area.