If you’re an employed adult living in the United States, there’s a pretty good chance you drive a car. Whether it’s a beat up, 20-year-old Honda Civic or a sleek, supple BMW M8, your car is a lifeline that connects you with the wider world of employment and entertainment.
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has a well-developed public transit system, your car is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Although this may seem normal for many, America’s obsession with cars harbors a few darker, seldom-explored aspects that need to be brought to light. While virtually every other developed country sees the construction of immaculately realized public transportation systems, the U.S. stagnates, with only a handful of cities that have so much as a light rail network.
So how does relying on a car for personal and professional transportation affect you, mentally and physically? How can you break your dependence on cars, or at the very least reduce the impact that this dependence has on you?
In this article, you’ll find answers to all of these questions and more!
A quick note…
Before we begin, we’d like to briefly make it clear that, for many, cars are the only option for transportation, and that’s perfectly fine. The purpose of this article is not to decry the use of cars altogether, rather simply to inform you of the various downsides that accompany driving a car on a regular basis.
Although the tone we’ve struck here might seem a bit negative, we assure you that we mean no offense to those who choose to use cars as their primary means of transportation out of necessity or choice. For those in this position, there are options that can help you reduce your carbon footprint, save money and continue on driving to your heart’s content.
We’ll talk about these options later, but first let’s look at some of the downsides of driving.
A motorized hole in your wallet
Insurance payments. Fuel costs. Maintenance bills. Repair costs. All of these are expenses that you will have to pay in order to keep your car on the road. Sure, your car may get you to work on time every morning, and take you to the lake to fish on the weekends, but every day you drive it, money is slipping through your fingers.
As any person who has driven for some time surely knows, cars are expensive. Sure, they get you to work, allowing you to earn a living; but how much money could you save by using a different means of transportation to get to and from work? After all, there are other ways of getting around, and you might be surprised at how reasonably priced they are!
Take carpooling for instance. Carpooling allows you to share the cost of transportation between several commuters, lowering the individual costs for all. What’s more, many cities and roadways have made special accommodations for carpoolers, with exclusive causeways for use only by cars carrying more than two passengers.
If you’re fortunate to live and work in a city with a public transit system, you can also exchange your daily commute for a ride on the intercity train, bus or subway. While the idea of spending an hour or more a day on the bus or subway might repulse you, choosing this as your means of transportation can save you hundreds of dollars a month.
A driving detriment to your health
Did you know that studies have shown driving to be causally linked to obesity in drivers? That’s right: according to a study carried out by the Georgia Institute of Technology, for every 30 minutes you spend driving on a daily basis, your chances of becoming obese by 3%. If this study is to be believed, driving may be causing you to gain weight.
So, what is the reasoning behind this conclusion?
It’s actually quite simple; the more you drive, the less you walk. For those not particularly inclined to exercise due to busy schedules or simple lethargy, walking to and from work, leisure time activities and other destinations is a great way to stay active and healthy.
This is supported by the Georgia Institute of Technology study, which establishes that those who live in densely populated urban areas are substantially more likely to be in good shape than those in less sparsely populated suburban areas. While there are certainly other factors involved in this phenomenon, driving is without a doubt a key component.
In addition to these worrying findings, there are other potential health detriments. Sitting in a car for long periods of time can cause back pain, muscle inflammation and cramps, while the excessively loud noises of passing traffic can leave you with permanent hearing loss.
If you are experiencing any of these detrimental effects, you may want to consider a different means of transportation.
A moving mental health concern
Despite the worrying potential from physical detriments of driving, there are also a number of mental health concerns that you may want to weigh when considering a switch to a different mode of transportation. These potential detrimental effects may not leave you in bad health physically, but they can lead to severe consequences in other ways.
One of the most well documented ways that driving can affect your mental health is by causing stress. The constant pressure created by concentrating on the road, your vehicle and the vehicles all around you can lead to feelings of stress that will likely linger long after you’ve turned off your car and taken the keys out of the ignition.
Another unfortunate potential downside of owning and operating a car is the anxiety that you may experience due to the responsibility that this entails. Constantly worrying about car payments, insurance payments, and the task of keeping the vehicle maintained can all leave you feeling anxious about expenses and time constraints.
We’ve got one more thing that we have to mention with all of this said and done. In some areas, cars are the only way you can get to and from work, and you’re all but forced to rely on your car to keep food on the table and a roof over your head. If you find yourself in this situation, there’s only one way to change it: move somewhere else!
If you’re interested in moving to a new city, you may need to find a real estate agent in the area you’d like to make your new home. Once you find one that you believe will suit your needs, the only thing left to do is buy your new dream home.
Who can say? Before too long, you might just be calling an entirely new city home!