We’ve addressed the practical benefits of carpooling to work such as saving money on gas, reducing wear and tear on your car, and cutting down on air pollution – and we’ve explored ways to assemble and maintain a successful carpool crew. Now let’s look at carpooling on a more personal level: What should you do, and not do, to make the carpool experience a positive one and avoid (pardon the pun) driving everyone crazy? Here are some tips to bear in mind.
Be on time. No one needs the stress of finding they’re late to work because you didn’t have it together in the morning. Lay out things you’ll need the night before to avoid last-minute a.m. hunts; and – whether you’re the driver or a passenger on a given day – aim to be early, so that unforeseen glitches don’t push you behind schedule.
Choose music or news that everyone can agree on. Your love of music – be it opera, heavy metal, New Age pan-flute selections, or all of the above – is a wonderful thing. But unless a genre is equally beloved by all in your group, consider avoiding it for your carpool soundtrack. Try to agree in advance on what music (or radio station) you’ll play that everyone can live with. Likewise, political talk shows or podcasts are great – unless they will cause tensions in the car. What would each person in your group listen to if they were driving alone? Use that information as a guide to making successful carpool choices.
Make sure your car is clean. Riders would rather not confront food wrappers or soda cans, get your dog’s fur on their work suit, or find that their feet are sticking to the car’s floor. Show up with a car that is reasonably clean, fur-free, and pleasant to occupy.
Communicate. Life happens, and there will be times when you have to work late, miss work, or travel for business. That’s no problem, of course, as long as you’re in touch with your fellow carpoolers with as much notice as you can give. The trick is to allow everyone time to plan around the schedule change.
Give in to road rage, distracted driving, or any other dangerous driving behavior. Safety is your main priority on the road, and never more so than when you have a car full of people with you. Make sure you’re doing everything possible to protect all involved – your passengers, other drivers, and yourself. No checking your phone while driving; no excessive fiddling with the sound system; no cutting anyone off or engaging in aggression. If you’re a passenger, be a calm and considerate one. Your job is to make things easier for the driver and help the ride go smoothly.
Smoke. Sorry, but you can’t smoke in the car during a carpool, even when the car is yours. Others may have health sensitivities to cigarette smoke – or may just hate the smell. It’s not fair to subject them to smoke in close quarters.
Forget the details. Everything’s fine, you’re making good time, and a song is playing that your whole carpool enjoys. But then you realize you’re low on gas and have to make a stop that may throw off the schedule. Don’t let this happen. Work out in advance whatever you need to attend to, so your trip is as predictable as possible.
Neglect to have some fun. In addition to financial and environmental benefits, carpooling can offer social advantages – it’s an opportunity to get to know your coworkers better in a laid-back environment. Discussing weekend or evening plans can help you learn about what matters most to the people in your group. And, bear with us here, did you know that singing with others is a proven stress-buster? The next time a song comes through the speakers that everyone seems to love, see what happens if you try singing together. No pressure, of course – and if some in the group decline, let them. But if this becomes a regular group activity, you may improve the environment and your health via your own personal “Carpool Karaoke.”