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Question of the Week: What would convince you to change your driving habits?

2008 June 30

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Driving less, carpooling, and combining errands all mean less pollution. And with fuel prices rising, people are driving less, or driving smarter when they can. But many find it very difficult to drive less because of where they live or what they do.

What would convince you to change your driving habits?


En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Actividades como el guiar menos, hacer carpool y combinar mandados todas contribuyen a reducir la contaminación. Mientras los precios del combustible están en alza, las personas están conduciendo menos y lo están haciendo de manera más inteligente siempre que pueden. Sin embargo, a veces se les dificulta guiar menos debido al lugar donde viven o por lo que hacen.

¿Qué le convencería para cambiar sus hábitos de guiar?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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180 Responses leave one →
  1. Utah Chris permalink
    June 30, 2008

    What would convince me is the folks at EPA actually coming up with mileage requirements that make sense (why in the world do SUV’s get a free pass???). Then I could own a vehicle that gets good mileage, is affordable, and everyone on the road has the mileage requirements.

    And another thing – why do some states require vapor collection devices when others do not…. if I have to pay extra in my state, then every state should have to pay extra for that…. it helps the air whether it is a non-attainment area or not doesn’t it?

    And another thing – if Al Gore can jetset around the globe in his G4 or whatever and have no concern with the number of 15000 pound armored SUV’s he chooses to parade within, then why should I listen to his rhetoric?

    I am making changes today in my driving habits. I carpool once a week, but we will still need to run the kids to hockey practices and travel team games. Can’t get around those issues.

  2. Michele permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I feel my driving habits need no changing. I have been a licensed
    driver for over 35 years without any tickets or any accidents. I think I should be commended for this, don’t you?
    Thank you!

  3. Wes Wilson permalink
    June 30, 2008

    Doesn’t anyone acknowledge the hypocracy of the EPA blog asking us citizens this question after Administrator Johnson denied California’s right to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles under the Clean Air Act?

    EPA has, for the first time in its history, prevented a state from having a cleaner environment. Rather than EPA acting responsibly to assure that less polluting cars are produced, it’s blog site asks what you can do for your country. Ask not EPA, your hypocracy is showing.

  4. Matt Marshall permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I think many of your bloggers have it right:
    – Pedestrian friendly cities
    – Access to high quality public transportation
    – Pressure on auto manufacturers to improve mileage for vehicles
    – Smarter fuel policies and investment in renewable energies
    – Flexible work arrangements
    – Urban revitalization to draw people back from the burbs to our thriving employment centers
    Holistic solutions (little bites) are the way.

  5. Bill S. permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I live in the New Jersey suburbs about 20 miles from Manhattan. Since I work at home, I have little need to drive. On weekends, we sometimes drive into the city. We would prefer to take mass transit, but this typically involves three trains, NJ Transit to Hoboken, the Path train to Manhattan, and then a subway to wherever we want to go to. Round trip, that’s six trains in one evening, which is a bit much even for committed environmentalists. There should be an easier way to get from our town into the greatest city in the world. I don’t necessarily want to see more train tracks, but more trains running on the tracks we have and more attractive schedules would help.

  6. Jennifer permalink
    June 30, 2008

    If good public transportation was available I would drive less. I live only 10 minutes from our downtown, the way our current bus transportation is set up it would take me two hours to get there! Doesn’t make sense! Better bus routes, a light rail system between close cities and more Amtrak stops for cross country.

  7. Mari permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I have already changed my habits. I combine shopping trips and errands. I drive slower, and use my cruise control more.

  8. STEVE permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I have changed.I quite my job,the hourly rate didn’t pay for the gas to go any longer.So now I work 3 part-time and walk to work and saving money as well.

  9. Jamie permalink
    June 30, 2008

    Let the gas prices continue to climb. Take the government subsidies away and let the actual price of gasoline show at the pump.

    Over the next 3-5 years more people will start to move closer to their work environment and take advantage of public transportation, their bikes or walking.

    The transition period would be difficult, but in the end, I believe allowing the free-market to work is best for everyone.

  10. Joann permalink
    June 30, 2008

    Public transportation. The money the government currently puts into roadways and roadway maintenance could be spent towards public transportation designed similar to Washington D.C. and many European cities. If more people had public transportation available to them our roadways would not need as much money for maintenance. By transferring the money towards public transportation the government can play a positive role in the environment.

  11. kavitha permalink
    June 30, 2008

    eventhen the fuel price is hiking every day the people would not change their driving habit. i actually dont have a car. if at all i am owing a car i would reduce the driving habit to reduce fuel expenses and also to save the environment

  12. Pavlova permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I think that if we had better public transportation, it would be a big plus for me, and also, have all schools including private ones, have a bus system to pick up and drop off kids at or near their homes. Another plus would be to allow people to do more working from home and better urban planning such as making streets more biker friendly. Not too many of our streets have bike lanes.

  13. nana permalink
    June 30, 2008

    I’ve made the change and feel good about it! I ride my bike 80% of the time. My work is flexible, and is only a 4 mile bike ride away if I do need to go in. I take my son to school on a tandem and Whole Foods is around the corner, yes it is more expensive, but I save a lot of money on gas, so it evens out. My way of life didn’t happen overnight, I planned ahead (way ahead) and followed through. I planned where I live according to its distance from the train station and Whole Foods. I’m not well off by any means, in fact I just recently discontinued food stamps, so please don’t make lack of money your excuse. Empower yourself, take control of your life, no one is going to make these changes for you.

  14. Christine permalink
    June 30, 2008

    If I could bike safely to work, I’d drive less. As it is, I have to cross an interstate highway. I go out of my way to cross at a safer spot but the road I have to take is 45 mph and has no shoulder.

    Light rail or a train would be nice too. But, we’re so small that’ll never happen.

    A bus route exists but buses aren’t always on schedule and the ride takes 45-60minutes versus 15 min if I drive. If the buses traveled my route more frequently and if the ride took less time, I’d definitely ride the bus.

  15. Ron Stewart permalink
    June 30, 2008

    Its a shame that we aren’t drilling off coast, in the mountains and Alaska for Oil. We send men to the moon, but aren’t able to extract enough crude oil to meet our demands? Oh, thats right, our own congress won’t let us take care of ourselves by drilling right here at home and telling the middle east to keep their oil. We should be exporting oil like Canada!

    Al Gore? Interesting that the college that did a study on his carbon footprint of his home last year, and then, measured again this year, and low and behold, he increased his own carbon footprint at home alone by 10%! Imagine how much he is depositing by all the private plane flights he takes? Oh, I guess his own medicine is supposed to apply to everyone but him! I’m glad he is not this countrys President, because leaders lead by example!

  16. Ana permalink
    June 30, 2008

    1. more options and flexibility in public transportation.
    2. Re-zoning so we can have stores closer to home

  17. Sally G permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Trains are also more energy-efficient, and their pollution is at ground level, not directly into the higher atmosphere. Among cars, trains, and planes the efficiency/ least polluting means are rated from most efficient/cleanest to least efficient/dirtiest: trains, cars, planes. I live in northern New Jersey, and am lucky enough to be able to commute to work and walk to the stores/bank/post office. I currently don’t own a car, just rent when I REALLY need/want to. It’s freeing in some ways, confining in others.

  18. Sally G permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Hear, hear! RThe biggest problem, IMHO, is that everyone seems to think that growth is always good, and more growth is even better. When will we be satisfied with what we have, and not need the newest items, the status brands, bigger houses, flashier and more powerful cars, etc.? Jim Merkel, author of Radical Simplicity, says that a world population of 6 billion, for every person on earth to have the same standard of living as the average United States citizen would require the resources of 5.5 planet earths–and that leaves nothing left over for any other species. Sobering.

  19. Sally G permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Good idea. My sister is a single mother with two teenagers, and hates food shopping. She uses a delivery service and it saves stress as well as gas and car wear-and-tear. She is pleased with the quality of the items delivered abd can place her order online whenever it is convenient.

  20. Sally G permalink
    July 1, 2008

    I’m not a mother, so in some ways I really don’t have a right to comment on this. However, my sister is a single mom living on a limited budget (two teen to put through college), which was even tighter in the kids’ preschool days, when the most important thing to her was being able to stay at home until the youngest went to 1st grade.
    She’s had to say no to her kids; they can’t have the newest toy, the status brand, the licensed products (which she and I grew up thinking weren’t the best, anyway). She did find the funds for dancing lessons, soccer, hockey, and golf (HS team).
    I didn’t get a bicycle right when I asked it, it went on the Christmas list. When my parents finally bought a color television, it was after everyone I knew had one, and it was the major family Christmas present.
    If we can’t pass on our priorities on to our kids, or at least make them aware of the decisions we all have to make as adults without endless resources, how will they ever make their own decisions when they become adults? I’m really proud of my level-headed niece and nephew (the latter of whom would prefer to have his “beater” car fixed than replace it because it’s HIS car [yes, he borrowed his grandmother’s 1996 Jaguar, which she bought used, to go to the prom and make an impression, but the main reasons she agreed is that he usually asks for so little and she trusts his driving and judgement]).
    It’s natural for kids not to be price-sensitive; it’s the parents’ repsonsibility to teach them–that’s how they learn to be responsible consumers and responsible citizens.

  21. Sally G permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Congratulations! Your safety, and presumably speed, records are unimpeachable. Are your auto environmentnal standards as high? (Not meaning to be holier-than-thou or critical, just asking for clarification on an issue that you did not address.)

  22. galen permalink
    July 1, 2008

    my driving habits would change if there were a mass transit choice that was at least comparable to driving. right now my choices are drive (15 minutes) or take the bus (45 minutes with one bus change).

  23. George permalink
    July 1, 2008

    The price of gas has already caused us to cut back on driving. Basically, we have a budget and gas is one of the items. To stay within budget, we have had to reduce our driving by almost 50%. We cut out extra trips to the store, driving on weekends, etc. We are fortunate to have short commutes to work. Obviously, people with long commutes cannot cut back by 50%, but most Americans do have some excess miles they can trim off. Hang in there. Gas prices will drop as demand goes down. Look for significantly lower prices this fall.

  24. Lisa permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Unfortunately, we have become a very selfish society and are quite obnoxious if the slightest bit inconvenienced. Look how many people still complain about the delays due to extra security at airports to prevent another 9/11. As sad as it is, people will not voluntarily cut back their consumption. Public transportation won’t be the answer, as we say we’ll use it, but only if it stops right at our front door and drops us off right at the front door of our workplace. And, only if it takes less time than it does to drive in personally. We’re a spoiled country, we all want everything, and we want it all right now. Our children are being raised to have even higher expectations of instant gratification. While our parents and grandparents were willing to work and save to buy the things they wanted, and would gladly make sacrifices if it was in the best interest of their beloved county, those values are quickly vanishing. You can’t even get people to go out and vote anymore. Oh, they’ll complain all day about the state of things, but don’t expect them to vote to try and make a difference. “It’s all about me” should be our national motto. The only solution to this problem will be mandated concessions.

  25. Susan permalink
    July 1, 2008

    It’s time for employers to start doing their part. With today’s technology, telecommuting and flextime should be offered whenever feasible for the position. Employees tend to increase their productivity via these alternatives. We’re all struggling to be “super moms” with having to work (today’s economy virtually eliminates the June Cleaver option), get our kids school and to their varied activities, grocery shopping, etc. Let me work at home at my desk in my “jammies,” and you’ll get more productivity that you could imagine, and a devoted employee for life!

  26. Tom Kopp permalink
    July 1, 2008

    What are the incentives being offered by the Federal and State governments for the individual/private resident to go green?

    I have looked at the prices and going green remains quite expensive. How do we get help?

    Thank You.

  27. Tom permalink
    July 1, 2008

    No convincing needed. The current and escalating price of gasoline has me driving less by combining errands, or just delaying errands until I have enough to combine. I am now driving the speed limit which has resulted in literally a 2 mpg increase. I also carpool everyother day which represents a real 50% cost savings in commuting costs. I would absolutely use public transportation if it made sense. Unfortunately public transportation where I live relative to work would add 2 hours per day to my current average 2 hour commute.

  28. DougS permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Well here in the rural countryside of Maine there are little opportunities for “public transit.” The State sponsors an Internet database for those interested in car-pooling called Go-Maine. I singed up several years ago, but no one from my area travels the same route or time frame. In five years there was only one possibility.

    Five years ago I drove a minivan the 60+ mile round trip to work. Over time I have downsized to a midsized car, economy car, and now a compact 1991 Geo Metro (hard to get parts but it still runs). I also had the opportunity to change my work schedule from five 8 hour days to four 10 hour days. Fortunately for me a coworker from a northern office commutes past my house once a week to the southern office that I work at. The result is that I only use my Geo three days a week to travel to work.

    Concerning vacation travel, last year we travel throughout New England from June to October. This year we might make one instate trip.

    Additionally my wife has horses that she pleasure rides on (logging) trails behind our house. Now she uses the horses to ride the eight miles to our local town to pick up groceries, doctor’s visits, and prescriptions. She typically will make at least one trip a week, but sometimes up to three trips.

    Here’s a local tong-in-check conversation: “Vacation land yup that’s Maine. Don’t need to go no where to have fun we’re it! But I tell ya if food stamps could buy a bus ticket we’d all be outa here.” From local comedian Tim Samples.

  29. Rose permalink
    July 1, 2008

    My driving habits, I believe, are driven (ha) by what I have to do that day. I try to combine trips, eliminate those that are not necessary. Public transportation that is reliable, reasonable, and are not time intensive would be good.
    In my state, most people are not willing to carpool, independence is a MUST here. I would like some flexibility to work from home but that is not an option either.

  30. Jorge permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Combining errands. Having public transportation close to home.

  31. John permalink
    July 1, 2008

    I’ve been riding the bus for 28 years, very few miles per year on my cars (even got insurance company odometer audits 2-3 times!). So getting to and from work is NOT a driving issue for me. Errands and around town is. To change driving habits related to this activity, I’d like to see more motorcycle friendly parking, and more bicycle friendly routes (off the main highways, which around where I live is border-line suicide), along with bicycle parking. Also, I shop a lot on the internet and have many goods delivered right to my door. No driving at all by me, UPS and FedX still use diesel fuel.
    Finally, I was researching dumping my gas-hog 1989 F-150 for a good used Tanaka (spelling?) mini-truck (imported from Japan). These trucks have 600cc water cooled engines in them and are rated for 1/2 ton and get bout 30 MPG (unloaded). But, since they do not pass all the USA “safty” and “emission” standards I cannot get one licensed for road use in my state. They are sold as off-road “ATVs”. I assume if they made them TO pass all the safety and emission standards in the USA, most normal people would not be able to afford them.

  32. John permalink
    July 1, 2008

    I already carpool. I would like to see increased use of rail transit.

  33. Laura permalink
    July 1, 2008

    1.5 miles round trip is nothing. The weight of groceries shouldn’t prevent you from making such a short trip by foot (or especially bike, where weight is hardly an issue). Here are some tips: get a cart to carry your groceries in – these are very common in countries where urban people have to transport purchases by foot; go to the store more often so you buy less each time; if you have children, have them come along to give you a hand.

  34. Patricia Haley permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Single mom here,

    I have to ferry the kids around as well as myself so that often rules out car pools. I have had 4 different jobs in the 10 years I have owned my home. It wouldn’t have been good to move the kids’ school four times so I commuted.

    Now that my youngest is a high school senior, I plan to move closer to my current job once she graduates.

    In the Philadelphia suburbs, mass transit is all about getting people into and out of the city. It takes forever to go from one suburb to another suburb because you have to go into the city and then back out. This might have worked a long time ago but more people live and work in different counties outside the city. They just didn’t keep up.

  35. Sonya permalink
    July 1, 2008

    The availability of public transportation between my daughter’s daycare and my office. The Richmond Virginia metropolitan area is woefully lacking in public transit options.

  36. Becky permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Would love to convert to 4 10-hour days to save on mileage and fuel costs since I have a long commute but our state governor seems to think that some of the state supervisors are not capable of managing the time and attendance so our request was denied. Our human resources office told us that the”high price of gas is not justification.”

  37. Jon permalink
    July 1, 2008

    I don’t want to change my driving habits.

    I want a Federal Government that gets out of the way. Let us drill here in America so we have sufficient oil of our own and we are not dependent upon foreign countries. Stop talking about absurd plans to tax alleged excess profits and redistributing such taken money. Let the great American private industry lead us through growth and prosperity. The Constitution does not obligate the Federal Govt to protect us from ourselves.

  38. Overtaxed Dave permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Huge tax incentives from the government would be great. Maybe free installation of a CNG pump or charge system for alternative fuel vehicles. Free registrations? Gas saver program through a special credit card that tallies the number of gallons you use. How about CHEAPER RAIL, guys??? It’s still cheaper to drive to NYC from Buffalo for 4 people than to take an AMTRAK train.

  39. Neal S permalink
    July 1, 2008

    In my travels, I have seen in large cities in Europe and Asia a well established Mass-Transit system. Not just trains, but Hi-Speed transit (propelled by electro-magnets) that not only offer an alternative to reduce pollution, but as a faster method to get to where you want to be. I think that we could learn a lot based on what has already been established. Start with Major Cities and move outward, perhaps linking the US in a new era (new ground based tech.) similar to how it was done 100 years ago.

    The key difference is acceptance of how ‘one’ is to travel and whom they travel with. In the USA (my home), it still has a view of not being safe, that it is unsanitary, not convenient and just out-of-date. I have listened to comments that people generally do not like to travel with others because that is the way they are used to traveling. Of course this is a generalized statement, but perception is reality and that drives today’s behavior.

    In my home State, they have been talking about a train linking two major cities (seems like forever, at least 10 years). Meanwhile I have not seen traffic times and accidents increase more now than ever. At some point, something has to ‘give’. Just ask residents of Chicago, L.A., NYC, Miami, Toronto (Canada), Atlanta just to name a few.

  40. Wayne permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Nothing, no alternatives that make sense. This country is spread out, not like Western Europe. The economy and country was laid out to take advantage of cheap energy. If we all move to the cities and leave all the country as farm land. Maybe it would work, however that is about that is about as likely as a frog not bumping his backside as he hops.

  41. Richard permalink
    July 1, 2008

    During the first time that the gas prices increased (about 2005) I stopped driving my Ford Ranger to work and started driving my old Honda Accord with a stick shift. It routinely gets 25 MPG. I have NEVER owned an SUV. I considered them a gross waste of money.

    This time I don’t have an answer, but I may be taking more vacation to reduce gas costs during peak gasoline season.

    Something to consider: Reduced gas consumption will reduce traffic and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

    Something employers could do is adopt a 9/80 schedule or a 4 day work week.

  42. Shelley permalink
    July 1, 2008

    I already carpool, but I would like to take the bus more. Where I live (Cincinnati), public transit is hard to use. Would take me more than an hour to get to work when I can drive there in 15 minutes.

  43. Stephanie permalink
    July 1, 2008

    I wish my company would consider allowing folks to work from home at least a few days a week, that was would help considerably. I live in one town and work in Little Rock, only a 15 mile commute but now I run my errands during my lunch break when needed instead of driving to Little Rock on the weekends. Why waste the gas when I am already here during the week.

  44. Karen permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Have public transporation more available in the city-there isn’t a bus that goes directly by me-also longer operating hours including weekends

  45. Michelle permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Public trans. That would be great. Trains like Europe that were efficient. AND a society that wasn’t so perfectionist and crazy about time and instant everything. Go back a bit to the 20’s or so for the environment’s sake. Keep the good habits, redo the bad ones.

  46. Dan permalink
    July 1, 2008

    How about publically admitting that we are sending our youth to fight in a war to secure our oil supplies, and that wasting oil is an insult to their sacrifice? How about aggressive enforcement of speed laws against those who waste oil by speeding, and stigmatizing people who buy big trucks and SUV’s they don’t need whith bumper stickers that say “Our children are dying so that I can drive this truck”? How about a warning sticker on the visor of any vehicle that gets less than 30 mpg that says “Warning: Operation of this vehicle may contribute to the death of millions of persons less than 4’11” in height.”

  47. Tina, Indiana permalink
    July 1, 2008

    My job is 25 miles away from home, so I have always ran errands before going home. We have a small business, so sometimes it is still necessary to run errands on Saturday. It’s too far to bike and I have to dress up for my position. I would love to find a job closer to home, but the salaries are not comparable. I have begun using the method of “coasting” up to stop signs whenever possible and I have always driven the speed limit.

  48. Bob permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Its easy to demand more public transportation, but government also faces economic realities. Buses and subways can’t go everywhere and they are not free to operate. The problem is that suburban development fails to create population densities conducive to public transit.
    And to answer the question, I drive fairly minimally, but I drive fast. I’m trying to shift to drive slower because that saves significant gas. There should be some public awareness of the gas savings resulting from going 55 or 60 instead of 75.

  49. Mae permalink
    July 1, 2008

    better access to public transportation. I used to live in Ann Arbor, a very walkable city, but still owned a car because if I was going more than a few blocks–especially in the winter–it was just too painful to walk. Now that I live in Washington DC, I have given up my car completely (it’s back home in MI–not even around “just in case”) and take public transportation everywhere. Although our winters are decidedly less cold than in MI, anyone who has been here between June and October know that the heat in DC is just as bad as the cold in MI.

  50. Bob permalink
    July 1, 2008

    Having the previous comments on the need for better public transportation systems, I would like to add a couple of other thoughts that are, I believe, pertinent to the topics of excessive driving and high fuel prices.

    In my home city and state, the city and countly plan approvers have never seen a plan they could refuse. Each new residential development is farther and farther from needed services such as schools, grocery stores, shopping, available public transport etc. Get the picture? Why are we not requiring new developments to have these services within reasonable walking or safe biking distance as part of or prior to approval? Why are are still working with the outdated model that builds everything around the automobile?

    Secondly, while the classic supply and demand equation is causing some upward pressure on pump prices, what is equally apparent is that oil has become the new “” darling for speculators. Starting with the days of “trickle down” economic policies where the theory is that if the rich get richer they will share some of it with the rest of us, we now have a huge number of people with enormous disposable incomes who produce nothing but simply move money around… looking to buy low and sell high, producing even more wealth…for themselves.

    I doubt families cutting back to make ends meet are speculating in $140/barrel oil.

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