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Tips for a Safer, More Efficient Commute

See also: Mindfulness

Even though it’s something we do nearly every day, very few of us would refer to commuting as an essential life skill. However, daily commutes take up a significant chunk of our time and can even impact our mood and work performance.

Thus, by switching your stressful commute to one that is safer and more eco-friendly, you can boost workplace productivity and live a happier life overall.

Understandably, it’s not always easy to change habits, especially if your commute has been the same for a long period of time. The good news is that you can overcome the mental barrier associated with familiar daily routines, such as commuting. One of the first steps involves looking into the safety aspect of your chosen commuting method, especially if you drive to work every day. Do alternative transportation options exist that are less dangerous?

Commuter on a bike.

Image Source: Unsplash

Alternative Commuter Habits

Of course, safety concerns are often put to the wayside in favor of time management ideals.

You may be resigned to driving because you believe that it’s a faster method of transit. That may not be completely accurate, however, especially in major metropolitan areas with regular train or bus services. No matter where you live, do some research and compare travel time between trains, buses, bicycles, and your personal vehicle during rush hour traffic. The results might surprise you.

As you work to alter your commuting habits, there are also technological advancements to consider: In our modern world of innovation, where do autonomous vehicles fit in when it comes to commuting efficiency? Proponents of autonomous vehicles tout the alleged safety benefits, including significantly reduced rates of accidents involving impaired drivers, speeding, and distracted driving.

However, we’re still a few years away from true vehicle autonomy. Until then, alternative commuting options such as bicycles, carpooling, and public transportation are most likely your best bet where safety and efficiency are concerned.

Mental Health and Your Commute

It’s common knowledge that commuting via personal car is a dangerous activity.

In fact, in the U.S. the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 34,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes occurred nationwide in 2017 alone. But driving to and from work also has a major impact on your overall mental health and wellbeing.

In fact, a 2014 U.K. study found that those who walk, bike, or take public transportation to work are healthier, happier, and less stressed. What’s more, so-called “active” commuters “felt better, able to concentrate and were less under strain than if they traveled by car.” Think of how a less stressful commute could affect your work performance: a high-stress commute via car, in heavy traffic, can put you in a bad mood even before you get to the office.

If you’re resigned to commute via your personal vehicle, however, you can still maximize efficiency and boost your motivation. Traffic jams can become an opportunity to learn new skills and practice mindfulness, rather than a source of daily frustration. To promote peace and tranquility even in the heaviest traffic, consider listening to a CD or podcast of mindfulness mantras or positive affirmations. Further, you could play an audiobook and put a dent in your reading list without ever taking your eyes off the road.

Yielding and Rules of the Road

No matter your preferred commuting method, developing safe travel habits is of paramount importance, both to you and your fellow commuters.

For instance, a simple lesson that many commuters fail to learn, whether they’re behind the wheel or riding a bicycle, is when to yield. Of course, if you are at an intersection with a marked crosswalk, you must yield to any pedestrians in the crosswalk.

That crosswalk rule is standard across the U.S., as part of the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC). But it’s important to note that pedestrians do not always have the right of way. Pedestrians must yield to vehicles in a number of situations, including when crossing at spots other than cross-walks, and when entering or exiting a pedestrian tunnel, or overhead crossing.

Drivers should never assume that a pedestrian understands or will completely adhere to the UVC. When you’re behind the wheel, do your part to keep everyone safe and always be on the lookout for pedestrians crossing the road in an unsafe or unlawful manner. The same tip goes for cyclists as well, who also may not follow the rules of the road.

While those who commute via bicycle break the law much less often than drivers, bicyclists involved in accidents tend to have severe injuries and therefore should take extra precautions. Some cities are also more dangerous than others when it comes to bicycle commutes. For example, in September 2019, New York City saw 453 bicycle accidents. Of those accidents, 43 percent occurred in Brooklyn, and legal professionals report that intersections pose the greatest threat to NYC bicycle riders.

Due to the inherent dangers of bike commutes, learning the bicycle-centric rules of the road is paramount to everyone who chooses to commute to work on two wheels. The good news is that the majority of roadway laws are relevant to both bikers and car drivers alike.

For starters, bicycle commuters should always ride with traffic, rather than against it. Most road-adjacent bike lanes have arrows indicating the correct direction for safe travel, and for good reason. If you’re riding against traffic, drivers making a turn from an intersecting road may not even glance in your direction before turning. Riding against traffic puts you directly, and unnecessarily, in harm’s way.

Environmentalism and Transportation

As previously mentioned, a solo commute in your personal vehicle might indeed save you a few minutes. But at what cost?

Many of us believe that we’re doing enough to help stave off the effects of climate change, such as recycling and installing Energy Star rated appliances at home. Maybe you even work at a company that’s committed to environmentalism, where office supplies and equipment are eco-friendly and sustainable. But if you commute to the office in your personal vehicle every day, your environmental efforts are essentially being wasted.

That’s because “cars contribute almost 50 percent of road transport-related emissions,” writes Australia’s Bus Industry Confederation. A full public bus essentially equates to 40 vehicles off the road, and a full train means that upwards of 500 cars aren’t producing emissions. The widespread use of alternative transportation, therefore, can help reduce emissions by a significant margin.

Adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle and choosing alternative transportation does much more than simply reducing your carbon footprint. You may also learn to open your mind, see the value in the smallest things, and then pass on those lessons to your friends, family, and co-workers. Ultimately, by leaving your car at home and choosing a safer, more eco-friendly commute, you can help make the world a better, and happier, place.

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

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About the Author

Magnolia Potter is from the Pacific Northwest and writes from time to time. She prefers to cover a variety of topics and not just settle on one. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her outdoors or curled up with a good book. Chat with her on Twitter @MuggleMagnolia.