U.S. commuters spend an average of 50 minutes in their car each day, and that leaves a lot of room for improvement. Make the most of your commute with these 10 tips.
Photo by mattlemmon.
10. Adjust Your Mirrors for Better Vision
Most people set up their car’s mirrors in a way that keeps the edge of their own car in their vision, mostly to provide a sense of perspective. This limits the amount of “blind spot” coverage provided by your mirrors. Car and Driver suggests a new alignment technique supported by the Society of Automotive Engineers that covers more angles with your side and rear view mirrors. When we first highlighted this tip, several commenters asked what’s wrong with just looking over your shoulder as you change lanes—technically, nothing. But if you’re willing to commit a little practice time to a new mirror setup, you might find yourself more in control of what’s happening as you’re speeding down the highway. (Original post)
9. Make Your Commute with Pre-Tax Money
The Frugal Dad blog suggests taking a second look for commuting discounts, including asking around your firm’s HR types to see if any discounts or even pre-tax buy-ins are offered for public transportation, parking, or other commuting costs. If you happen to live in San Francisco, commenter JeffK suggests seeing if your employer might reimburse you for your bicycle commute. Photo by 91RS. (Original post)
8. Plan Around Traffic
Those estimates of driving time that online map provide? They don’t always know your commute like you know your commute. If you must be on time, avoid stress, or maybe just want to try a different route, check out Google’s traffic mapping on desktop, iPhones, and Android units, give Bing’s experimental maps a go, or, in larger cities, try a service like Commuter Feed, or simply run a Twitter search to see if drivers at a stand-still have shared their misery with the wider world. (Original posts: Google traffic maps, Commuter Feed)
7. Make Smart Use of Your “Down” Time
Blogger and web PR thinker Steve Rubel likes to make otherwise unusable time useful, primarily by listening to audiobooks relevant to his trade and queueing up articles for reading with the Instapaper service. If you’re similarly willing to give up drive-time radio for something a bit more, well, mind-expanding, we’ve explored a few options cheaper than forking over bucks to Audible or iTunes. BooksShouldBeFree neatly organizes the public domain offerings, BooksFree offers a Netflix-like rental service, and you might be surprised to learn that iTunes can make any audio file you find into an audiobook. Keep in mind, too, that your local library likely has a good selection of audiobooks available. (Original posts: BooksShouldBeFree, BooksFree, iTunes/audiobooks).
6. Ride Your Bike to Work
It’s the best fuel economy you can get, and the side effects aren’t that bad, either. The Sietch Blog answers all the basic questions and gripes about bike commuting to work, and Paul Dorn offers smart tips on planning your route. Feel like you’re devastatingly disconnected from your date life? It’s fairly cheap to mount your smartphone to your bike—just be safe! Photo by richardmasoner. (Original posts: riding 101, route planning).
5. Avoid or Manage Getting Pulled Over
Nobody’s ever planning to be pulled over, but you can be prepared. Stewart Rutledge schooled us on some techniques for beating a ticket, or at least upping your chance of a smooth transaction. Car and Driver interviewed state troopers on how to behave when pulled over, and a traffic attorney from the state of very serious traffic offenses, Virginia, offered his own debunking of ticket myths. If you’ve got a lead foot or a rolling stop style, they’re all worth a read. Finally, you could try out a service like Trapster to get a heads up on common speed traps. (Original posts: Debunking myths, Trapster)
4. Manage Your Commuting Stress
Managing your commuter stress isn’t about a zen state of mind or leaving five hours early. Avoiding minor cases of road rage every time you hop in the car can be accomplished by stepping back from your drive and examining it objectively, suggests auto writer Tom Vanderbilt. Don’t change lanes in slow traffic, because it almost never matters. Make eye contact with other drivers when you can, look ahead down the road, and try to avoid a sense of personal entitlement to your lane merge, says Vanderbilt. Mixed with a good audiobook or other good use of down time, your commute might just become a lot less stressful, or even better—something you look forward to. Photo by DannyBen. (Original post)
3. Have a Stash for Your Stuff
No, not that kind of stash. We’re talking about a pad for your gadgets, DIY car consoles, a clever dashboard camera mount, and makeshift mounts for your iPhone/iPod touch or $2 adjustable multi-gadget mount. Your priority is keeping your eyes on the road, of course, but these tiny projects make it less likely you’ll have to dig around underneath a seat for your stuff while driving. (Original posts: sticky pad, console, dash camera, iPhone dock, adjustable dock).
2. Telecommute the Smart Way
If you’re able to telecommute on occasional sick days or with some regularity, you’ll still have office etiquette, politics, and logistics to deal with. Our own Gina, who’s been working over the net for more than five years, offers some tips at a Harvard Business Review post on remote email, “checking in” with video chats or teleconferences, and using smart tools to collaborate. Photo by mccun934. (Original post)
1. Save Money on Gas
Back in the summer of 2008, when automotive fuel averaged $4 a gallon, Jason wrote up a guide to the easy but verified ways of saving money on gas. Since then, gas has leveled off in price and then creeped back up, but no matter where it goes from here, spending less cash on your commute is always going to make you feel better about it. Photo by FutureAtlas.
What tips, tricks, projects, or simple tactics have made your commute better, faster, or less annoying? We’d love to hear about them, and maybe post about them, if you’d leave them in the comments.