It may cost your life. We often think of that commute to work as a waste of time sitting in the car and spending a fortune on gas, but there is a hidden cost. There was a recent piece on Forbes about how unhealthy our commutes really are and what some of the consequences are.
It’s a Lifestyle Choice
I think David Rizzo, author of Survive the Drive! How to Beat Freeway Traffic in Southern California says it best:
We put our health second. To have a big house, we’re willing to put up with smog and a big drive. We sacrifice our longevity for short-term gains.
For many people, this is very true. They want to have that perfect house in the perfect subdivision, a pool, nice neighbors, good school, and they will drive 30, 40, 50 miles or more one way just to get to work every day. While it is nice to have the better things in life it comes at a cost. The obvious ones are time and money, but there are also many health concerns in play as well.
While I agree that it is a lifestyle choice to a great extent, there are plenty of situations that are not by choice. A job loss or job change can put someone into a position where they have to drive much further than they had to previously. There are also situations where a couple may have jobs on opposite sides of town or in different cities altogether where no matter where you live, someone would have to commute.
While the Forbes article focuses on Southern California and its well-known air pollution problem, it doesn’t stop there. Most major metropolitan areas are going to have high levels of pollution on the busy freeways and if you’re driving on them, you can’t escape it.
Ultra-fine particulate matter has been linked with premature death, cardiovascular disease and respiratory illness, according to the California Air Resources Board.
Particle pollution kills people, whether they’re breathing it in over a short period or day in and day out for a year. It’s not like being hit by a car, but it shortens the lives of people by months to years.
Many people escape the city because they want to breathe cleaner air and get out of the pollution of the city, yet they could find themselves sitting in an even higher concentration of for a few hours every day just driving to and from work.
The Likelihood of Being Involved in an Accident
Most people at some point in their life will be involved in some sort of motor vehicle accident. It could be a minor fender bender, or it could be fatal. National Geographic released some statistics in 2006 about the probability of death from specific causes and the chance of dying in a motor vehicle accident is 1 in 84. The only three causes that beat these odds are a stroke, cancer and heart disease. So, if you are subjecting yourself to extended periods of time on the road compared to the average person, you are increasing your odds in being involved in an accident, which could prove fatal.
Is It Worth It?
After putting more miles on your vehicle, spending a lot of excess money on gas, lost productive time, the increased chance of being in an accident and possibility that you’re killing yourself via pollutants, is it worth it? Going back to what David Rizzo said, it is a choice for many, and an almost unavoidable necessity for others. Some may put more value on the things that make the long commute a requirement, while others may find ways to reduce the need to commute.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a longer commute than I’d like. For us, it isn’t about a fancy house or a good school district, it is just a fact of the matter. My wife’s office is about 30 miles away from mine. We could have picked a location that was centrally located to both, each driving about 15 miles, but no matter how you slice it, since they are in opposite directions we’d essentially be covering the same distance between the two of us no matter where we lived. So, we opted to live close to her work location so that she only has to drive a couple minutes and spends less time on the road.
I don’t enjoy it and the time I lose while being on the road stinks, the stress of traffic and idiots on the road trying to kill me is turning my hair gray, but unfortunately at this stage of the game we don’t have many options. The good thing is that we’re very, very rural so the pollution impact is minimal. All I need now is a car that drives itself on a private road with no other drivers and I’ll be all set.
Is Your Commute Killing You?
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.