Driving is the most common method of commuting to work in the UK – in fact, a staggering 54.5% of all workers drive to work, compared to those who walk (9.8%) or take the bus (7.2%). But is getting in your car and driving to work really better than using public transport or riding a bike? Is it safer, cheaper and more convenient?
Join us as we highlight the advantages and disadvantages of driving to work!
1. It Can Be Your Downtime
Many of you will agree that mornings are probably the craziest time of the day - particularly if you’re a working parent. The whole routine of: wake up, make breakfast, pack lunches, feed the [insert pet(s) of choice here], do some quick housework, get ready and drop the kids off at school all in the space of an hour or two – can suck the energy right out of you.
Driving to work, though, can be your downtime. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax from the morning confusion, collect your thoughts and mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead. Or do what I do: belt out your favourite Céline Dion tune like nobody’s listening (the dramatically powerful and superhuman long notes of ‘It’s all Coming Back to Me Now’ and ‘My Heart Will Go On’ were simply made for drive time).
2. You’re Not Constrained by a Strict Schedule
If you drive to work, waking up a few minutes late in the morning just means being a few moments late for work. But if you commute to work via public transport, it could mean missing your bus or train and, depending on the schedule, that might mean being an hour late for work (and getting in trouble with your boss). Moreover, public transport stops running late at night in some areas, which is a huge disadvantage if you work at night as you risk being left stranded until morning.
Driving to work means you’re not constrained by a strict schedule, and you have the freedom to go wherever you need to, whenever you need to. You can leave work at a time that is most convenient to you, which is particularly beneficial when you have errands to run or a family emergency.
3. It’s Quicker
Even if you live in a city where buses, trams and trains are aplenty, getting from point A to point B isn’t always a straight line. You often have to take multiple trains or buses, or a combination of both, to get to where you want (which isn’t fun, especially during rush hour). Then there are strikes, delays and other possible disruptions you need to take into account and plan your commute accordingly. (Don’t forget to check out our employee rights handbook to find out what your rights are when you’re affected by travel disruption.)
It’s simply quicker to drive to work (most of the time), as you can avoid busy roads (or at least try to) and take a more direct route to where you need to go. You’re in total control of the commute which means you don’t have to worry about things like planning for an extra 10 minutes or so to walk to the office from the nearest bus stop or train station.
4. Your Personal Space Remains Personal
If you’ve ever taken public transport to work during the morning rush hour, you’ll most definitely agree that it’s a complete and utter nightmare – especially if you value personal space like I do. Not only does it feel like travelling with what seems to be the UK’s entire population on a single train coach, but you also have the privilege of sometimes having a smelly armpit kindly pressed into your face. It’s simply an invasion of privacy and enough to cause long-term PTSD.
And then you have to repeat the whole horror at 5 o’clock!
You know where that doesn’t happen? In your car. No smelly armpits, no one coughing/sneezing in your face and no one choosing to sit right next to you on an otherwise empty bus! Just pure bliss.
1. It Can Be Hard to Find a Good Parking Spot
Unless your company offers you free parking on the premises, finding a good parking spot can be quite a challenge, especially if you work in a big city like London or Manchester where it’s not uncommon to have to park what seems like a million miles away from the office.
That being said, you can always seek the help of a trusted online parking service. Parkopedia, for example, takes the pain out of finding available parking near the office, and even lets you reserve a spot and pay online through a mobile app or in-car. It also tells you how far away it is from your destination and how long it will take you to walk there. Cool or what?
2. The Traffic Is Dreadful
Traffic: the seven-letter word that every driver the world over hates. And yet it’s probably the most unavoidable part of the workday, especially if you work in a big city.
New research found that the average driver spends roughly 32 hours a year stuck in traffic during peak periods in the UK, costing motorists more than £30 billion in 2016 alone. That’s £968 per driver.
London is the seventh worst city in the world for congestion, while the UK’s most congested road was the A406 Northbound from Chiswick Roundabout to Hanger Lane where drivers spent, on average, 73 hours (or 3 days) in traffic a year.
3. It’s Bad for Your Health
We all know that driving can be incredibly stressful (especially when it seems all the idiots are out on the road with you). Getting stuck in traffic and being aware you’re going to be late for work only makes matters worse.
It’s been scientifically proven that driving is the most stressful way of commuting to work – mostly because motorists have to budget in extra time in case something goes wrong. It can cause higher blood pressure and an accelerated heart rate, while every hour spent in the car reportedly makes you 6% more likely to be obese. But that’s not all: it also affects your work productivity and even your personal relationships as you become less social and trusting of other people.
Driving is also the most dangerous way to commute. In fact, car passengers are at the greatest risk of dying in a road accident, with some 12.8 fatalities reported for every 1 million inhabitants in 2013. This is followed by pedestrians (6.3 fatalities for every 1 million) and motorcyclists (5.3 fatalities). Travelling by bus, on the other hand, is one of the safest ways to commute to work, with “only” 0.2 fatalities reported for every 1 million inhabitants.
4. It’s Expensive
Like, super expensive. Recent research found that car ownership costs the average Londoner a whopping £3,436 a year – and that’s on top of the cost of buying the vehicle. The research, which tallied up costs such as road tax, insurance, petrol, maintenance and parking, also found that Londoners spend an average 182 hours in their car annually – which brings the total cost to £18.88 per hour of use. That’s more than a Friday night stay at the Ritz London (about £15.24 an hour) or a return flight from London to Sydney (about £14.42 an hour)!
Taking the bus to work, on the other hand, works out far much cheaper. An annual bus pass will set you back just £848 – that’s £2,588 in savings which you could instead put towards buying three annual passes, with change to spare!
Want to know how much it’s costing you to run your car on an annual basis? Check out this handy calculator.
What do you think? Is driving the best way of commuting to work or do you prefer taking the safer option and travelling to work by bus? Perhaps you’re very health-conscious and prefer walking to work or exercising during your morning commute? Join the conversation down below and let us know!
This article was originally published in January 2015.