Various Routes: Changes Aid Safety and Sanity

Can someone watching you tell where you are going just by the direction you take when leaving home or the office? Do you feel stuck in a daily grind? Does your daily travel seem to be taking longer and longer? If you answered any of these questions affirmatively, maybe it’s time for a change.


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Change Your Time

The most recent statistics available from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) indicates that nearly 90 percent of workers traveled to work by car, truck, or van. The number of commuters traveling alone increased 2 percent, to 79 percent in 2003, while carpooling declined to 9 percent from 11 percent and mass transit hovered between 4 and 5 percent, according to the BTS Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2005. Although 3 percent of workers worked at home in 2003, the median travel time from home was 21 minutes and the median distance was 11 miles. More than 25 percent of workers leave for work between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Twenty percent leave between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and another 20 percent leave between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Leaving home earlier, or if your work schedule is flexible, later, may not seem to offer much relief from traffic congestion unless you can leave before 6 a.m. or after 9 a.m. It can, however, change your perspective if you give yourself some extra time to arrive or even just share the road with a different group of “idiots”. Slowing down can also help you save on gas. More moderate driving can save consumers more than 30 percent in gas use compared to accelerating rapidly then stopping short.

Change Your Route

Most route changes are caused by traffic accidents, construction zones or similar situations that force us out of our familiar patterns. By taking surface streets if you normally take the freeway, or vice versa when you don’t have to, you not only get a change of scenery, you may also learn about new routes to use when accidents or construction does occur.

You can also change your route by changing your mode of transportation. If you normally drive alone, try carpooling with a coworker or taking mass transit. Depending on how close you live to your destination, consider walking or riding a bicycle. All of these modes of transportation can help you save money. The last two may also be good for your waistline, and exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on mood and attitude.

Change Your Habits

This takes changing your route one step further. Make a list of what you normally do, not just during your commute but for 30 minutes before and after. Look for patterns and ways to break them, or at least change them out regularly.
For instance, if you normally stop for coffee, juice or a bite to eat, consider bringing something from home or waiting until you arrive at the office. If you absolutely can’t bring something from home or wait until you get to the office, vary the places you stop; you could even arrange the occasional morning meeting for a location outside the office.

Parents who take kids to school or day care could share transportation duties with neighbors. Whether sharing with neighbors or just family members, set up a schedule with an odd number of occurrences which will make it harder for others to predict who will be driving when. It also offers more flexibility for the inevitable scheduling conflicts because drivers tend not to associate “my day to take the kids to…” with specific days of the week.

Don’t wait to the last minute to fill the gas tank. Shopping around will encourage you to explore different routes, stop at different fuel stations and give you some added “cushion” if you do find yourself stuck in traffic. Also, although fueling up during the hottest part of the day may not be the best idea, varying when you fill up between morning and evening, can reduce your predictability even further.

Change Your Environment

One of the biggest problems with routines is that they often become something we do without really thinking about it. To help increase your awareness of your surroundings try changing radio stations or even turning the radio off. Put the cell phone down. Get out of your vehicle and walk the kids to the door or go into the coffee shop/restaurant instead of just going through the drive thru.

If you are using mass transit, car pooling or just driving the kids around, avoid doing things that isolate you. Take the headphones off. Talk to people around you. If you must read, try varying your material from newspapers to magazines to books. Change cars if you are riding a train or seats if you are riding a bus.

It is not necessary to change everything at once. Even little changes can make a difference in your attitude, especially if you choose to make the change rather than having it forced upon you by circumstances. You may never love your commute, but you may enjoy it more. And who knows, perhaps creating more options in your commute will spill over into other areas of your life.

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