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Drivetime

Commuters offer advice on how to spice up the daily ride
Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:29 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Panel of Commuting Experts

Amanda Stoufer

A student at MU’s Veterinary School, Stoufer gets up every day around 5:30 a.m. and commutes with her children, ages 2 and 4, from Concordia. Her husband works in Kansas City, and Concordia, an hour away from Columbia, is the halfway point between the two cities.

Chet Johnson

Johnson and his wife, Jane, bought a house with property in Callaway County when he took a job with MFA Incorporated in Columbia 29 years ago. Johnson usually leaves around 7 a.m. for the 30-minute commute to Columbia along Route WW.

Angie Jacobs

Jacobs works in Columbia but lives in Ashland. She and her husband chose the city as a halfway point between Columbia and Jefferson City when she worked in Jefferson City and her husband worked in Columbia. Since then, she began working as an area coordinator for Residential Life at MU and makes the 20-minute commute every day.

10 ways to make commuting more enjoyable

Beat the traffic

Traffic can be one of the frustrating parts about a commute. Avoiding high traffic times and having an alternate route can help avoid time spent sitting in traffic.

Angie Jacobs plans her commute to avoid the busiest times. She typically leaves her house around 8 a.m. and doesn’t leave work until after 5:30 p.m.

“It’s not a real headache compared to living in town,” Jacobs said.

Although Jacobs’ route on U.S. 63 isn’t slowed down by stoplights, Chet Johnson said the intersections in Columbia are the biggest problem for him. Otherwise, he said, “The drive is peaceful.”

Watch the weather

Bad weather can make commuting a hassle when dealing with treacherous roads.

Johnson uses his four-wheel-drive farm truck if he needs to make it to Columbia. But bad weather doesn’t stop Johnson from getting to work. In 29 years, he has missed only one day of work because of bad weather.

You can check road conditions in Missouri and find tips for driving in winter weather at www.modot.state.us/road_conditions.

Avoid the rush

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safe and Sober campaign suggests planning ahead to avoid rushing on your commute. They recommend giving yourself an extra 10 minutes so you aren’t trying to make up time on the road.

In the worst case, they said, just be late. Don’t become overly aggressive because you are running late. Obeying the speed limit and planning out alternate routes were their suggestions.

Varying your commute schedule can also help, the administration said. Talk to your boss about having more flexible hours to accommodate your commute.

Consider the costs

The daily commute can cost more than just time, especially with rising gas prices.

Amanda Stoufer said it usually costs her $7 to $10 a day depending on gas prices.

“I buy gas when I am in town because the gas prices between Concordia and Columbia are so high,” she said.

You can calculate the cost of commuting based on mileage at www.commutesolutions.com.

For example, the cost of driving a medium-sized car 30 miles one way, five days a week is estimated to be $316.05 per month.

Eat and drink

Your stomach may be growling on your commute to or from work, and eating can do more than satisfy your hunger.

An advice Web site called PageWise.com said eating and drinking can help keep you alert. It suggests keeping snacks in the car to sustain you while driving.

But don’t let it become a distraction.

Call with caution

Cell phones are useful, but they can be a distraction in the car.

Jacobs and Johnson both said they use their cell phones rarely on their commute. When Johnson does need to use his phone, he has a hands-free set in the car, so he can keep his focus on the road.

The dangers of using a cell phone while driving have been studied, and laws banning cell phones have been brought up in some state legislatures. In Missouri, a bill banning the use of cell phones while driving was presented to Motor Vehicle and Traffic Regulations Committee in 2000 but never made it to the legislature.

Enjoy the down time

A commute can bring some much needed time to relax and think about the day. Use it.

Johnson uses his time in the car every morning to plan for the day, and on his way home from work he thinks about the things he has going on at home and future work projects.

Jacobs also uses the time to think about her day.

“I find the drive enjoyable,” Jacobs said. “It allows me to get geared up and down for the day.”

Get some sleep

A daily commute can be tiring, and it is important to stay rested so you can be alert on the road.

Stoufer’s hour-long commute can be exhausting, but she tries to go to bed at a decent hour to stay alert on the road.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration studied the effect of sleepiness on driving. The loss of one night’s sleep results in short-term sleepiness, but continuous loss of one to two hours of sleep a night can cause chronic sleepiness.

Sleepiness can be associated with driving impairment including reaction time, vigilance, attention and information processing.

Listen to the music

The commute can be lonely in the car, but listening to the radio or music can help pass the time. Listening to the radio can also alert you to traffic problems on your way in.

Jacobs listens to CDs her husband makes for her. He picks a topic for the songs, and she tries to guess what it is.

Stoufer also listens to CDs because her car doesn’t pick up many radio stations. In the afternoon she listens to kids’ CDs to keep her children occupied. But in the mornings she chooses the music while her kids sleep.

Get some tapes

Another way to keep your mind occupied on the road and keep up on your reading is listening to audio books.

Cracker Barrel has a selection of audio books on tape and CD that customers can rent for $3 a week. The books can be returned to any Cracker Barrel across the country. The Cracker Barrel in Columbia said many people use the program.


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