A carpool saves time, money, and commuter stress

The Carpool Solution

by R. Kellogg

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Provided you can find people headed in your same direction, carpooling can be an excellent savings strategy. Carpools can save time, money, and stress. They benefit commuters, school-aged children, and people doing errands or going to events.

Those headed to work can save on gas and parking fees by doubling or tripling up with nearby friends and neighbors headed the same way.

School-age children can benefit from carpools as well. Setting up carpools for your kids to school and/or to sports practices and other extra-curricular activities will help you streamline your schedule and save on time and gas. This year I have set up carpools with three different friends. By sharing our driving chores, we are saving ourselves a cumulative thirteen trips a week. That represents about four hours total saved per week between the four of us.

College students and others who may not have a car can carpool with friends or neighbors who do have a car to reach entertainment, shopping, and other errands. It can be helpful for maintaining this arrangement if the one hitching the ride is willing and able to contribute something to the driver in exchange for the ride, such as gas money, homework help, or picking up the tab on a treat while you are out on the town.

To set up a carpool, look around you for people going the same direction you are. Look for neighbors heading to the same schools, practices, and events. Check out your workplace for coworkers that live near you and propose a carpool to them.

A carpool does not have to be every day both ways. It could be once a week or twice a week. It does not have to be a rotation of drivers. One person may prefer to do all the driving in exchange for gas money. The key is to find a system that you will use and that works for you. Make a plan and be flexible to adjusting it if the need arises. As long as everyone involved feels like they are benefiting, your carpool can be a positive and effective arrangement.

The carpool will run most smoothly if some ground rules are discussed in advance. You don't need to use the words "ground rules" when initiating this discussion, but it would be prudent at a minimum to check up on the following:

  • For any carpool, look at timeliness. If this is going to be a regular thing, will everyone be able to be on time? Will the driver give a courtesy call to riders to let them know she is coming when she leaves her home, or will everyone simply know to be ready at the correct time for pick-up?

  • Courtesy is important. If you are a driver or rider remember to give as much notice as possible if you become ill or are going on vacation so that others may work around your change of plans.

  • Check your arrangements for safety. If you are setting up the carpool for your school-aged children, are there enough booster seats for all children young enough to be legally required in your state to use them? A close neighbor and I traded school carpooling one year. Her Kindergarten-age daughter was small enough to still need a booster seat. I picked up the girl and booster each morning I drove and dropped off the seat at her home on my way back.

  • Are all participating drivers safe drivers? Make sure you trust the people that are driving your kids.

  • Are your children educated about car safety? Do they know safety rules to follow in the car and when they are near cars? Being with friends can bring out the goofy side of kids sometimes. It's important for them to know the safety rules and be willing to follow them. What you save in gas in carpooling probably won't cover expenses should an accident arise. Be sure to discuss car safety with them before they start using a carpool.

Carpooling is also a good chance to teach children about manners and gratitude. They can be taught to say "hello" or "good morning" to the driver when they are picked up and "thank you" when it is time to get out of the car.

All in all, the benefits of participating in a carpool are many. If you have not tried one already, you might look around and determine whether you might be able to set on up that works for you.

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