America loves its cars. We’re one of the most car-dependent countries in the world, and in many places, it can be challenging to get around without them. The number of walkable cities in the United States is less than ideal, and having a car is a necessary part of life for most people living in urban areas.
But car ownership also means the expense of fuel, maintenance, and insurance, not to mention things like parking fees and registration. Not only that, but they contribute to noise and air pollution and can even have a detrimental effect on mental health.
But if you can get along without a car — or even just drive less than usual — there are some real benefits to limiting your time behind the wheel where you can. Here are just some of the benefits of driving less.
You’ll spend less time in traffic jams
Americans waste an enormous amount of time in traffic. Not only is it devastating to productivity, but it also has a negative impact on physical and mental health. It’s particularly bad in San Francisco, which ranks second in the list of 10 worst commutes in the U.S. (2023). Taking public transit, bicycling, or even walking if possible means less time spent inhaling exhaust and being deafened by the sound of horns.
Increase your physical activity
Everyone knows about the link between increased physical activity and better health — so consider finding an alternative to sitting in a car wherever possible. Whether it’s walking to or from errands, walking to the bus or train station, or taking your bicycle, you’ll spend less time in traffic, improve your health, and reduce wear and tear on your car.
You’ll save on vehicle expenses
Owning a vehicle is already expensive. Motorists pay for fuel ($1,608 annually), maintenance and repairs ($1,425 annual average), and insurance, as well as things like parking fees and registration. Between various expenses and depreciation, a motorist could spend or lose $7,000 a year or more. Sadly, car insurance is particularly costly in San Francisco — according to Ross Martin at the Zebra, the average car owner spends $2,295 a year compared to the state average of $1,810, which is already higher than the national average. It’s not only a good reason to seek out the best cheap car insurance in California you can, but spend less time in your car whenever possible.
Fewer parking hassles
Parking in crowded urban spaces isn’t just expensive — it’s also time-consuming and annoying. Trying to find a space, even if you lease a spot in a parking garage, can be a major hassle that eats up time better spent doing other things.
Lower your risk of car accidents
It’s a statistical reality that the more you drive, the more likely you are to get in an accident. And car accidents in San Francisco are no joke — the city averages more than thirty traffic fatalities per year. Sadly, the bulk of these fatalities tends to be pedestrians, although the lowest share by far is bicyclists, who on average seem to do considerably better than motor vehicles.
Extend the life of your vehicle
Even when idling in traffic, your car’s life is shortened every time you drive it. Not only does a car depreciate in value the more it’s driven, but everyday wear-and-tear incur maintenance and repair costs, and — statistically speaking — eventually a major and expensive repair, especially if you get into an accident. While taking a bike or public transportation isn’t always convenient or feasible, one day less spent driving means that much less wear and tear on your car, which means it will last longer so it’s there on the days you do need it.
Lower your carbon footprint
Driving less can not only be an act of self-care but an act of care for the environment as well. Transportation is California’s largest source of greenhouse gases, which have been shown to contribute to climate change. The US lags behind in this area, with the average motorist creating a bigger annual carbon footprint just from their vehicles than the entire yearly emissions of someone living in France.
You don’t have to worry about drinking and driving
A DUI can make a huge impact on your life — emotionally, physically, and financially. A first offense is punished by a fine, but subsequent offenses have much steeper penalties, involving mandatory jail time, huge fines, and even the suspension or revocation of your license. It’s also murder on your car insurance — The Zebra’s Ross Martin points out that a DUI conviction will increase your annual premiums by 161%, to over $5,000 a year. If you’re not behind the wheel while impaired, then a DUI conviction is one less thing to worry about.