Lifestyle Guides

10 ways to survive your daily car commute

​​​​​​​It's estimated that around of third of the UK population commutes to work by car and each driver spends an average of almost an hour on the road every day.


What’s more, recent research compiled by analytics company, INRIX, suggests frazzled drivers spend more than one day each year stuck in rush hour traffic.

Commuting can be a drag, but it can also be dangerous if you become complacent and lose concentration, so we've put together 10 tips to help you have a safe, smooth, stress-free drive to and from work.

1) Plan ahead

Prepare your clothes the night before, plus any food and drink you might need (eg packed lunch and/or snacks), and put the items you need for work to one side too.

Get up early to give yourself more time to get ready and have a relaxed breakfast – the most important meal of the day.

2) Regular car maintenance

The less you look after your car, the greater the possibility that something will go wrong. Basic car maintenance takes just a few minutes and includes everything from topping up the engine coolant level to checking the oil level and tyre pressures. Remember, a well maintained car isn't just more reliable – it's also safer.

And don't forget your car insurance – that's vital too. 

3) Concentrate

The daily commute can become a time when we pay the least attention to our driving, so try not to become complacent. Not only is it dangerous, but it's boring too. Driving while tired or low on energy is one of the biggest mistakes, so try to get a good night’s sleep.

Also, start each journey as if it's a new adventure. A change of route with different landmarks might help, or maybe experiment with leaving earlier or later.

4) Technology to the rescue

On a basic level, listen out for traffic alerts on the radio. Consider using an app like Waze – a live sat nav which uses data from other motorists to build a picture of traffic conditions including accidents and detours.

Switch to a car with modern driver assistance aids such as adaptive cruise control which automatically adjusts your vehicle's speed to keep pace with the car in front (brilliant on motorways). Also, seat massagers are available on more expensive cars!

5) Keep calm and carry on

Relax and try to avoid road rage incidents. If another driver is being confrontational or aggressive, don’t make eye contact, don’t react and let them go on ahead. If you were at fault admit it, apologise and move on.

6) You're not alone

Familiar routes can often be the most dangerous because there's a danger of driving on autopilot. Stick to the speed limits and stay extra alert for other road users (motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists).

Also, watch out for mobile phone ‘zombies’ – pedestrians who are concentrating on their phone and not the traffic and may just step out into the road.

7) Are you sitting comfortably?

A sedentary commute followed by hours glued to a desk is an unhealthy combination. Sitting in the same position for long periods of time is a leading cause of neck and back pain, so you could try a few easy exercises behind the wheel when it’s safe to do so, and to drive in a relaxed position to reduce stress on your spine.

In a traffic jam, try buttock clenches, shoulder shrugs and seat braces (tensing and relaxing by pushing your hands into the steering wheel and your back into the seat).

8) Get into work mode

Use your daily commute to plan for the day ahead so that you can hit the ground running. That way you can reduce stress later in the day. Use commuting time to problem solve or to think of ways to make your working day go more smoothly.

9) Listen to music

Research suggests that singing reduces stress and is a natural anti-depressant, so sing along to music while driving.

However, a recent survey found that drivers who listen to rock, hip-hop and heavy metal are more likely to tailgate, speed and get into traffic accidents. On the other hand, those who enjoy classical or pop music were less stressed out during their journeys.

Make a playlist of music and songs that will lift your spirits and take your mind off any stresses on the road.

10) Car share

Most car commuters travel on their own, but have you considered clubbing together with one or more work colleagues, friends or neighbours? You can take it turns to be the designated driver and split the expenses.

Not only will car sharing save you money, you can relax on the commute, and maybe have a laugh too. It also reduces traffic congestion and pollution. If you can't find anyone, try a web-based scheme such as Liftshare.