If your daily commute is by car, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Our road problems are mainly of the infrastructure and planning variety and way above the problem-solving capabilities of the average citizen. But you can make life a little better for yourself and other drivers, and these small changes can change the world.
Vote with your rands
If you can afford to upgrade your car right now, do it. But make sure that the new ride comes equipped with minimum level 2 autonomy. This means you should be able to remove your hands from the steering wheel and take your foot off the pedals at the same time in certain situations. the best situation is in dense, slow-moving traffic. I cannot praise the positive effect this type of driving has on your overall stress levels enough.
Forget handcrafted heated seats and premium cladding on all exposed surfaces, forget infinitely adjustable seats with memory function. The true mark of luxury in 2019 is how much mental load a car can take from you. Letting the car drive you for most of the time allows you to take a break from mundane concentration. You don’t realise it but the little things like keeping your car in its lane and having to hop from the brake to the accelerator pedal or check your blind spot all tax your thinking muscle. Automated cruise control and lane-keeping combined with predictive emergency braking frees you up to think about your new business plan or, in my case, dream up new story angles.
You arrive at work or home feeling more fresh and armed with greater capacity for actual, important stress. It’s not a silver bullet and we probably won’t see affordable (read: sub-R1 million) fully autonomous cars within the next decade, but the manufacturers that are seeding these innovations to the upper-middle class – Volvo, Subaru, Mercedes, VW – are gifting society with better functioning humans. You should support these brands so that we get more.
Turn off the radio
The best habit I got into before tackling my monster commute every morning was to ask Google what the traffic was like before I walked out the house and then established the most efficient route to work before I pull out the driveway. Relying on a radio traffic report forces you to structure your life around a studio programme. Also Waze, Google Maps and services like TomTom Live (MyDrive) use a wide variety of data sources, including live tracking of users already on the road to build a more accurate picture of the traffic conditions.
Google Maps was recently updated to include a “Commute” tab where users across iOS and Android can access their media controls without leaving the app. You’re also then free to curate your own media experience like a playlist from your streaming music service or maybe a thought-provoking podcast like OVRCLKD_ZA (available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor and anywhere, really). You really don’t need to be subjected to the ever falling standards of local broadcast radio and downloading for offline use on your home or office WiFi means you save on data too.
As far as possible using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is a far better option than your car’s native infotainment interface. Android Auto can also run natively on your Android phone – the app is officially available in South Africa – so all you need is a Bluetooth or audio connection to your car speakers.
Be more patient
The biggest contributor to traffic congestion is erratic braking and acceleration. If you switch lanes and cause someone else to brake suddenly, the chain reaction can and often does result in an inexplicable traffic jam sometimes kilometres down the road. The ideal is to travel at a constant speed and make it easier for others to merge and depart from highways. Just a little bit of patience and foresight can literally change the world for the better – and not just in driving.