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Carpooling occurs when a group of people, who live and work near each other and share the same approximate work hours, share a ride to their place of employment. There are a number of environmental, health, economic, and social advantages to carpooling.
Carpooling is an overall effective means of reducing the amount of automobile emissions into the atmosphere, which is a major source of air pollution, particularly in wealthier nations. Automobiles emit five gases linked to global warming (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone smog). Carpooling can help alleviate air pollution, which in turn contributes to the overall health of individuals. Air pollution can lead to various respiratory ailments, cancer, impaired central nervous functioning and cirrhosis of the liver. In addition, if individuals carpooled on a regular basis, there will be less of a need for individuals with respiratory ailments to avoid time out of doors.
Carpooling also helps the environment by reducing the total number of commuter trips. Each passenger, in addition to the driver, represent one less vehicle trip. If four people drive to work separately, those four cars, making a total of eight trips to and from work, would emit three times the amount of gas emissions into the air. The same four workers, if they carpooled, would make one trip each way, thus cutting down on the total emissions into the air. The long-term environmental benefits are significant. It is estimated that the emissions in the atmosphere today will possibly linger there for more than one hundred years. Limiting the number of emissions in the atmosphere will lessen humans’ impact on global warming.
There are economic and social advantages to carpooling as well. Carpooling reduces the amount of money spent by drivers on automobile-related expenditures such as maintenance, parking, and fuel. Thus, carpooling saves consumers’ money while it simultaneously creates more space in parking garages and lots. Carpooling also increases the amount of free time that riders can spend on leisure, family, and intellectual pursuits.
Free time is further enhanced by High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which makes time management more efficient along municipal interstates and larger highways. In addition, carpooling allows for commuters to get to know one another, encouraging social interaction. This, in turn, may lead to lowering stress when commuting to and from work.
If carpooling becomes a norm, it will help to reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuels. For example, the population in the United States currently consumes over 19 million barrels of oil per day, some of which is used to power automobiles. Ten million barrels of this oil is imported. If fewer automobiles are being driven, oil consumption will decrease, resulting in a reduction in dependence on imported oil. Nevertheless, current levels of carpooling readership are relatively low. It is likely that incentives (like increased numbers of HOV lanes) and increases in gas prices will drive more commuters toward carpooling.
- Stanley Eitzen and Maxine Baca-Zinn, Social Problems, 10th ed. (Allyn and Bacon, 2006);
- Erin Kelly, “Earth Day Has Seen Great Gains, but Earth Can Do Better,” USA Today (April 20, 2004).