Between job demands, commitments and traffic congestion, there simply aren't enough hours in the day anymore. So it's obvious more people feel compelled to multi-task in this go-go world, which begs this question: if we attempt several tasks at once, will any of them get done effectively?

I'll narrow it down to the things we try to do when we're behind the wheel, slogging through traffic congestion to and from work. In metro Atlanta, 84% of us make this trip alone each workday and it takes us an average of 36 minutes each way ... plenty of time to become tempted to:

Change radio stations, talk on our cell phones, text message or scroll through e-mails on our mobile devices, rummage through articles
piled on the passenger seat, soothe cranky children in the back seat who ask, "are we there yet?," reach for our coffee, scan the newspaper headlines, shave, eat, or get dressed.

All while driving. Did I miss anything? What's the strangest thing you've seen another commuter doing while behind the wheel?

The more "productive" we try to be while driving, the higher the risk that we're going to hurt ourselves or others. The AAA Foundation released a national study on the culture of traffic safety in 2008 that describes how many of us do some of these activities from behind the wheel. 53% of respondents indicated they talk on a cell phone while driving. 14% of respondents indicated they text while driving. And a study by Exxon is purported to have found that as many as 70% of us eat while driving.

Yikes. Here are the compelling reasons why more commuters need to look into alternatives to driving alone:

  1. According to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, the majority of two-vehicle collisions in Georgia (46%) are rear-enders.
  2. Stack this finding next to the latest trend data from the Urban Mobility Report, a study we reference often with respect to traffic congestion, and you'll see that 53% of traffic congestion (delay) in Atlanta is linked to road incidents.
  3. It should come as little surprise, then, that a recent survey by an auto insurance carrier found Atlanta commuters are 26% more likely to get into an accident than the national average.

With more demands being placed on workers to do more work and more challenges to juggle work and personal tasks, sharing the ride just makes sense. More carpool, vanpool, rail and bus riders are stepping forward with their stories about finding ways to be productive as passengers. Certainly it's safer for everyone when "productivity" is attempted only from the passenger seat.

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