Psychology of Car Pooling

I have wanted to write this piece for a quite sometime now, but yesterday a peace of newspaper report made me sit down and write it finally. The report in yesterday’s TOI says that 78% people do not carpool at all. Going by my experience as someone who has carpooled for years, I would say the figure may be as high as 95%. People are just not open to car pool.

The most often stated reasons for car pool are saving on the fuel cost and being eco-conscious by consuming less fuel and hence a lesser contribution to polluting. Some other perceived benefits are lesser congestion on the roads etc. All the above are well publicized and understood, but what most people who have not experimented with car pool do not understand are social benefits of car pooling. I used to car pool with 3 other people for more than 6 months or so and all of them remain by good friends till date. I have given lifts to a lot of my colleagues who lived in the vicinity, and all of them are my good friends today. They are not my friends because I obliged them by giving free lifts, but they are my friends because we got to spend quality time with each other.

The not so obvious benefits that I saw from car pooling were:

Sharing of driving pressure– you drive only 50/33/25 % of the times, depending on how many people you pool with. This is a huge advantage, as driving in traffic jammed roads can be quite tiring as frustrating

You do not get bored when you are stuck on a spot for hours, even during rains as you have people to talk to and think of alternatives

You can have car parties when you expect to spend a lot of time in traffic. I remember in 2005, when Bangalore used to be flooded with rains everyday and 2 hours in the evening were a norm, we used to stuff our cars with all kinds of eatables and enjoy them while stuck on the road. It was fun to see guys in other cars envying us at times.

If you have regular car pool partners, you start sharing your daily life with them, after all who else do you spend quality 2-3 hours everyday with. They become your buddies, something that a lot of us living metro lives miss, and of course buddies are your very strong support system.

In case of any breakdown or accident, you are not alone.

There are small compromises that you may have to do when you car pool, especially with more than one person. You have to be little flexible with your timings, you have to at times go a little early or come a bit late if your partners need to vary timings. But once you start enjoying the company, you would be more than willing to do that for your friends.

I have come across a lot of people, in fact most people fall in this category, who are absolutely averse to car pool. Their point of view is that I did not buy a car to share it with someone, or loose my flexibility. At times I have found it ridiculous when people from same large apartment complex go to same organization with thousands of employees, but each goes in his or her car. There is a sense of status in some people, who would not want to share it with anyone who is below in hierarchy to them, some would not want to be disturbed while they take their calls in the car, and most just want their own space and pace. I have heard remarks like, I did not buy the car to share it with others.

I have been trying to think of the reasons behind this thought process and one of the reasons that I can think of is probably the fact that most people are owning the cars for the first time and have not grown up with cars. And it is when they owned the car that they separated themselves from the crowds or the shared spaces, and by car pooling they do not want to again share this hard earned space. I am not sure if this random thought of mine makes any sense. I have seen efforts at large organizations to promote car pool just falling flat, as no one wants to adjust even a wee bit for someone they would carpool with.

I hope some people would look at the social benefits of car pooling, which are more personal in nature and at least experiment with carpooling sometime. Like I say for everything in life, Experiment and Explore, if you like it stick to it, if not move on or go back!


Anuradha Goyal