Sitting in traffic, breathing in the fumes of engine exhaust and wanting nothing more than a faster way to work or home is very frustrating. We certainly understand and empathize with everyone that must endure a daily commute. No one wants to be “packed like lemmings in shiny metal boxes” with the “rush hour hell to face.”
Unfortunately, the average American commute has been steadily increasing since the 1980’s. In 2015, the average commute was 26.4 minutes, a 24 second increase from the previous year. While this may not seem like much, it translates to more than three extra hours in the car over the course of a year. And this time also costs you money – more wear and tear on your car and more gasoline at the pump.
At Driving2Save, we would like to help commuters make the best of a bad situation by offering driving tips that will save you money, protect your health and our planet and save you some time. For those who are willing to consider lifestyle changes – ranging from small changes to fairly large ones – we offer additional suggestions to help you save time and money (and improve your quality of life).
- Before you leave for work, get your junk out of your trunk. Unnecessary weight in your car reduces your MPG.
- While stuck in traffic, use your AC only if you absolutely need to – running the AC when idling or driving at low speeds can create a huge fuel penalty. This costs you money and increases harmful vehicle emissions.
- Close your vent in heavy congestion – this will reduce the amount of small, harmful particulate matter that gets into your car and into your lungs.
- If you have auto-stop-start technology, use it! Maintaining some distance between you and the vehicle in front of you will maximize the amount of time the engine is off.
- Easy does it! You are sitting in traffic already, slamming on the gas and then slamming on the brakes will not get you to your destination sooner. You will only waste gas and money.
- Ensure that your tires are properly inflated. Low tire pressure + slow speeds = poor fuel economy.
- Check traffic before you leave your home or office. If it is bad, look fo alternate routes! Apps such as Waze can help you find routes that are quicker.
These tips will save you money and improve your health, no matter where you live and commute. If you are looking for tips specific to your area, check out your local 511 organization (like this one for the Inland Empire) and groups like LA Metro, TMASF Connects in San Francisco or Commuter Connections in DC. But if you want to dramatically reduce the negative impacts of your commute, then you need to consider some lifestyle changes too:
- One of the best things you can do to improve your commute is to carpool with coworkers or friends that work and live near you. By carpooling, you are saving a significant amount of money on gas and reducing wear and tear on your vehicle. An NRDC report showed that switching to an all carpool commute can save drivers $1,100/year. Another added benefit? HOV lanes in some jurisdictions; in others, fewer vehicles on the road and therefore less traffic!
- If carpooling is not an option, you can bypass some of the traffic by leaving a little earlier (or later) in the day. In some areas, leaving just 15 minutes earlier (or later if you have a flexible work schedule) can lead to savings of an hour or more in your commute. Google Maps can be a helpful tool in determining when traffic is ideal – clicking on the Typical Traffic can show traffic conditions for any given time of day.
- One way to help you leave a little bit earlier – pack your lunch and what you need for the day the night before. Not only will this ease your stress levels in the busy morning, you can also leave earlier and spend less time in the car. Also, consider exercising near where you work rather than at home. Hitting the gym early in the morning or after a workday has both commuting and health benefits.
- Inquire with your employer to see whether it is possible to telecommute (work from home) for one day of the week. This is becoming more common, increasing from 2.2% in 1980 to almost 5% in 2015. This way, you can save a significant amount of time by not commuting, thereby reducing your stress levels, allowing you to get things done around the house and increasing your productivity at work as well.
- We recognize that this is not practical for many, but some commuters should consider moving closer to their employer, especially if their commutes are likely to continue worsening and the tips above won’t offset the additional commute time. Moving to an area where you can walk, bike or take public transportation to work is the ideal situation for many and a lifestyle that younger workers are increasingly embracing. The potential increases in your rent or mortgage may be partially offset by reduced vehicle ownership and maintenance costs. In addition, walking and biking to work can also provide added health benefits.
With commutes getting longer and more expensive, now is a good time to start Driving2Save. If you follow our driving or lifestyle tips, you’ll save money, improve your health, have more time to do the things you enjoy and reduce harmful emissions.
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This Post was updated and revised on January 16, 2018.