Driving stress? Understanding it Can Provide Better Service For All

Screen shot 2015-10-13 at 10.52.32 AMDriving is stressful. If you’ve ever commuted by car, then you might not need all the research to confirm this observation for you. A handful of studies have looked at various aspects of the commute: from the impact of commute distances, to how your commute choices affect your blood pressure and likelihood to trust others in your community. Time and again, they’ve found that active commuters are the most satisfied with their trip.

The most recent addition to this growing body of work confirms driving as the most stressful mode – but what is new and interesting is that the researchers got below the surface to identify what factors make your commute choices more or less stressful. They also found that when offered other, convenient options, would-be drivers were more than happy to switch to using those options. That tells us that driving may not be as hard-wired a habit as we assume.

The biggest stress factor for drivers is “unexpected delays,” making commuters feel that they have less control. Drivers seem to enjoy the journey less than walkers or transit riders, and are more likely to be focused solely on the destination.

Perhaps not surprisingly, predictability is a primary stress factor for transit riders as well, as they indicated transfers and unknown wait times as problematic. But the most enjoyable aspect of a transit commute was the walk to and from the bus stop. This echoes the finding that pedestrian commuters are the least stressed overall, though they cited traffic safety as their number one concern.

This dissection of what makes a commute stressful helps us understand why people might choose certain modes, and what might motivate commuters to change. And solving these stressors helps service providers offer more attractive alternatives – for example, things like real-time bus arrival information and express lanes for transit and vanpools to address predictability. When commuters start to re-think the balance of their commutes – weighing factors like the stress of a trip – these predictable alternatives might start to look like their next love affair.

What are your biggest commute stress points? How could commute options alleviate that stress? Tell us in the comments!

image via Bike Portland

2 Responses to Driving stress? Understanding it Can Provide Better Service For All

  1. Rich says:

    I’m a big proponent of biking as transportation (particularly ebiking), but these articles always seem to neglect the part about the stress that cyclists endure from incompetent drivers and lacking infrastructure. I would agree with your chart if the cyclist doesn’t need to share the road with cars (bike paths).

    • Kate Harrington says:

      Good point, Rich. Infrastructure plays a significant role in helping people use options. Take a look at the archives to see some of the articles we’ve done on bike-specific infrastructure, and of course, if you’re not already, please lend your voice to the ongoing conversation about building out the city’s bike network!