For most people, public transportation and carpooling remain far outside the fast track. While six in 10 Americans have public transit available, just 10 percent use it regularly, and just 4 percent of workers use it for their daily commute. (Ninety-three percent call driving more convenient.) Eighty-four percent drive alone to work, 8 percent drive with someone else and 80 percent of solo drivers aren't interested in car pooling.
Alongside the traffic, there's the other kind of congestion: Two-thirds of Americans are concerned about the effect of auto exhaust on their health, although fewer (four in 10) concede that their own driving is much to blame.
Yet, as noted, for all the watercooler gripes, 60 percent of people who work outside the home say they like their daily commute.
How so? One secret is a sane trip: Happy commuters tend not to work in cities, report below-average travel times and distances and say their local traffic isn't bad. Among people who work in towns or rural areas (four in 10 commuters), 71 percent like the commute; but among those who work in big cities (three in 10 commuters) it's 24 points lower.
The Commute: Liking it
|Work in rural/town||71|
|Work in suburb||56|
|Work in city||47|
|<15 min. commute||74|
|>30 min. commute||42|
|<5 min. traffic delay||74|
|>15 min. traffic delay||40|
|Good local traffic||71|
|Bad local traffic||46|
Long commutes are no fun: Enjoyment is 32 points higher among people who spend 15 minutes or fewer each way on their daily commute, compared with those who take more than a half-hour. Similarly, people with a long-distance commute are 22 points less likely to say they like it.
Indeed, about a quarter of commuters say the main reason they like it is because they're blessed with a short or easy route. More, nearly four in 10, like the quiet time alone or the break between home and work. And others report simple pleasures such as the scenery or listening to music or the radio.
Detroit may enjoy one finding: By a 10-point margin, people who "love" their cars are more apt to like their commute. Environmentalists may dislike another: It's SUVs that win the most affection. Among the one in six Americans who drive an SUV, half love it. Among sedan drivers, by contrast, just 35 percent love their cars.
One common experience on the road is bad behavior. Majorities of motorists say they often see other drivers speeding (reported by 82 percent), driving inattentively (71 percent) or driving aggressively (64 percent).
Four in 10 often see others run a red light or stop sign; 34 percent often witness "impolite gestures," and 27 percent often see other drivers exhibiting road rage -- "uncontrollable anger toward another driver on the road."
Traffic plays a big role. Among people who give the worst rating to their local traffic conditions, many more -- 41 percent -- see road rage, and 54 percent often see other drivers making angry or impolite gestures -- double the number who see it in good traffic.
Bad Behavior on the Roads
|Local traffic: Ex/Good||Local traffic: Poor|
|Often see: Impolite gestures||27%||54|
|Often see: Road rage||22||41|
Given these, it's no wonder that 30 percent of drivers say they feel nervous about their safety on the road very or somewhat often. Include those who feel this way at least occasionally, and the number jumps to 56 percent -- a majority.
Feelings on the Road
|Very often||Very/Somewhat||Occasionally or more|