Why South Africans Need to Start Carpooling!

Start carpooling – it’s good for your pocket and the environment!

Also known as ride-sharing or lift-sharing, carpooling can save you big bucks on petrol/ diesel, wear and tear on your vehicle, oil resources and reduce all the associated nasty environmental impact associated with driving.

When you drive to work, are you alone or do you have room for other passengers? Have you ever noticed how many others around you are driving on their own too? In Australia, 83% people who drove to work or study in 2003 did not have a passenger. (ABS Social Trends, 2003). In the USA, single occupant commuting is around 75% according to census data.

There are millions of us who engage in solitary travel to and from work; driving billions of miles each year, spending a stack of cash on gas and pumping tons of emissions into the atmosphere.

According to the SightLine Insitute (single passenger statistics):

– A small car emits around 0.59 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile
– A medium car emits around 1.1 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile
– An SUV/4 wheel emits around 1.57 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile

If public transport isn’t for you and you’ve rejected the idea of car pooling in the past for whatever reasons, technology has provided more far more choice, flexibility and efficiency to the concept – perhaps it’s time to consider it again?

As mentioned, you don’t necessarily have to have a car to participate in a lift sharing arrangement. In these cases you should plan to contribute cash to the driver to help cover his or her costs.

Formal carpooling is thought to have emerged in mid-1970s, likely due to the oil crisis at that time. It was a different sort of crisis back then and what we face now is far more serious. Our crisis isn’t so much about politics or oil cartels; it’s about a resource that’s running out and one that plays a major role in global warming – oil.

While the days of plentiful, easy to extract crude oil are just about over; there will be still enough around for some years to come to push us well over the brink into runaway global warming. Unavoidable change is already occurring to our climate, but it’s within the power of each of us to do our little bit to reduce emissions – and our collective efforts can make a difference as to how bad things get.

Car pooling advantages:

1. Save money

Just putting aside the gloom and doom aspect of the environmental impact of fossil fuels; consider even the cost saving aspect. I’ve been reading a fair bit on car pooling today and it hasn’t been uncommon to read stories of people who save a couple of hundred dollars a month in transport costs by sharing a ride with someone else. In some cities, you can also save on tolls and parking if your vehicle has multiple occupants.

It’s not just the cost of gas, tolls and parking, but city driving is notorious for causing wear on vehicles – all the stopping and starting wears out engines, brakes and gearboxes, not to mention tire wear. According to the American Automobile Association, it costs an average of 26.2 cents per mile to drive a car; and that’s just gas and wear and tear combined.

2. Decongests roads

According to a recent US study, “Commuting in America”:

– U.S. drivers wasted 4.2 billion hours sitting in traffic in 2005
– Traffic delays chewed through 2.9 billion gallons of fuel
– In Los Angeles, the average driver wastes 72 hours per year going nowhere.

If everyone car pooled, imagine the many hundreds of thousands of vehicles that would be off the road each day. This would lessen traffic congestion, making trips faster, cutting fuel and car maintenance costs even further. Some places even have roads with designated lanes for multiple occupant vehicles and I expect we’ll see more of this in the years ahead.

3. Social/emotional benefits

Through sharing a ride, you’ll meet other people. Our online world is steadily disconnecting people and that can be unhealthy for many folks. For some people, there’s nothing like a pep talk before the daily grind or a counselling session immediately afterwards.

Also, if you find driving to work stressful, carpooling can alleviate the frustration in travelling to and from the workplace. You may even find time to carry out other tasks during the drive instead, such as preparing for meetings etc.

4. Flexibility through technology

In the early days of car pooling, it was fairly restrictive and it could be difficult to find people you get along with to team up to share a ride. The advent of the World Wide Web has changed all that. Many online services have sprung up that provide a good choice of people to ride share with and therefore greater flexibility with your own timetable. Better online resources will offer the following matching:

Geographic –  matching departure and destination routes

Chronological – matching times of departure and arrival

Personal Preferences. – Points such as whether you wish to be a driver and/or passenger, gender preferences, smoker/non-smoker – some even provide matching for music choices. That’s quite a good idea; I know I would go absolutely nuts sitting through an hour of rap (no offense to rappers intended).

Check out www.cartrip.co.za

Carpooling precautions:

Wherever humans are involved, there is always potential for things to go wrong and not everyone in the world is  “balanced”. If you’re a newbie to the idea of carpooling with people you don’t know, below are some basic guidelines to bear in mind:

  • Try to meet the your prospective new car pooling buddies in a public place first before making firm arrangements to travel together. Don’t reveal too much personal information up to that point.
  • Ask some probing questions about driving habits. You don’t want to end up being stuck with someone prone to road rage or other habits that don’t suit you.
  • Try to confirm your prospective travel partner’s identity. Ask to see their driver’s license or other state-issued ID and reciprocate the gesture.
  • Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t go ahead with the arrangement.
  • Be sure you exchange emergency medical information once you’re comfortable and decide to go ahead with the arrangement. This is in case you’re in an accident.
  • Make sure you settle on issues such as eating/drinking in the vehicle, stops along the way and flexibility in pickup times; i.e. how late can a person be before they’ll miss a lift.
  • Have a backup plan as sometimes unavoidable situations will occur such as you become ill or the other person is ill.

It’s really important that everyone involved in the ride sharing arrangement is aware of and agrees upon the ground rules and it’s probably wise to have them written down. Winging it is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

I can see a time in the not too distant future where vehicles with single occupants will become prime targets for higher tolls and other disincentives; so why not try giving it a whirl and ease yourself into lift sharing at your own pace? Your pocket and the planet will certainly benefit!

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