Why I Choose Not to Drive a Car
Rebuttals to the Mainstream, Perceived Benefits; My Thought Process; & the Questions I Asked Myself
I imagined the freedom, the flexibility, & the avenues that would’ve opened up to me had I gotten a car. Maybe I wouldn’t need to anymore; perhaps I can enjoy all those and other seemingly indispensable benefits and luxuries of life by just getting one.
“If I wanted a cup of coffee from my favourite cafeteria, I’d hop in my car and treat myself. If I felt like going on a drive to get my mind off things or just joyriding (despite how oxymoronic those things are & how dangerous the consequences can be), my car would be at my disposal. If I needed to go and get some groceries, run some chores, or tend to an emergency, a car would be the way to go.”
These were some of my very first, unfiltered thoughts about driving and getting a car. But, I never felt compelled to get one.
The Mental Floss
Our need for an incentive to motivate ourselves for action or a lack of it (as counterintuitive as that may seem — there is an incentive people find even in lethargy) is not just universal, it seems, but axiomatic & primal. For me, the impetus that stilled my stance on getting a car was my ambivalence to spend ~$1000–1200/month; if it weren’t for that, I would’ve — not unlike most of us — invested in one without a thought.
As mundane as it initially appeared to be, I decided to ask myself if more factors should encourage or discourage me from getting a car, so I started my research about the pros and cons of getting one. And, I shouldn’t have been surprised — because it seemed pretty obvious — but I was. All of my initial, unfiltered thoughts (quoted above) summed up virtually all the benefits that I came across online.
They were all about flexibility, opportunities, & freedom. All the seemingly good things about getting a car heavily invoked the social aspects of our lives — especially the ones involving indulging in lavish comfort and extravagance. And, it did so in a way that it appealed to a dread of missing out if one didn’t have a car.
Of course, I didn’t need to read all that online as I have experienced that pressure firsthand from friends and family — about how getting a car should be treated as a basic necessity. But, having lived in Metro Vancouver for the past nine years, I never felt that need desperately enough to want a car. Was I not living life well? Was I missing out? The conflicting external advice and internal metrics of contentedness mandated that I look into it.
So, I did.
Reading the Candy-Label
I perused all the websites on the first three Google-search pages for the pros and cons of driving a car.
I came across some keywords & key phrases that made it seem impossible to do without a car. So, I thought about them and did some more research. Do what you must, but some of the benefits laid out didn’t seem convincing enough, some of them had hidden costs, & some were outright preposterous.
Here are some of them:
Safety & Security: Some of them talked about how having a car ensures safety and security. I immediately rebutted those vague claims from companies with vested interests in cars as I thought of accident statistics. Driving is the most dangerous means of transportation.
Health & Emergencies: As discussed below, driving a car is — and should be — a (moderately — as you’re not just practising good driving yourself but watching out for everyone else too) stressful activity. It sneaks in some sedentary time for even those who might think they’re out and about. Driving just about two hours a day can lead to chronic back pain and many other health hazards — more statistics on that below.
For emergencies, it seemed counterintuitive to think that driving a car would be an optimal means of transport when public services such as an ambulance are a much faster and more viable option. Because, if it were personal adversity I were to face, I’d either be rendered an invalid and, by extension, my car or chose not to get behind the wheel altogether.
Independence & Freedom: I’ve never felt freer than when riding a bike or when I’m traveling in a bus, being productive instead of engaging in a dead-eyed focus on the road signs and markings to keep myself and everyone else safe.
Take Pleasure Trips: I like a good trip just as much as the next person, but investing in a car to facilitate pleasure trips seems like light-footed thinking for the frugal and minimalist in me.
Faster Times: This involves factoring in where you live. And, of course, if you don’t live in a city, you may feel the need for a car more than those who do. So, I once decided to pick up my e-scooter — because I needed some fresh air — and meet up with my dad. We were headed for the same restaurant (about 2 km away) using the same route, but he was in a car. Surprisingly, I was about a couple of minutes behind him, riding a personal vehicle that doesn’t go faster than 30 km/h. And, that’s an acceptable margin given the staggering pros of an eco-friendly personal vehicle over a car.
A Sense of Independence: Even if I were to make the adequate amount I’ve set for myself, I’d be paying around 1/5th of what I’d be making every month (because I don’t like to settle for a secondhand vehicle). So, in a way, I’d be stressed out to work for a car, rent, and sustenance. And, paying every month for a car would have an added psychological effect mentioned further down.
Engaging Your Mind/Boosting Your Mood: According to WebMD, “multitasking can kill”. And, unless the road has your total focus — which is rarely the case — the probability of that happening becomes even higher. It all becomes even more likely when you’re not just doing your best to practice safe driving but giving ever-increasing attention to the plethora of manifest, reckless drivers and wild cards.
In fact, according to City Clock, “Driving stress is doing much more harm than we think. Most people know commuting by a car while stressed can increase the risk of getting into an accident. But it’s worse. Beyond personal health detriments of stress, driving itself can lower job and life satisfaction”.
The Adrenaline Rush: Honestly, this cracked me up a bit. There isn’t a shortage of things that give you an adrenaline rush, and — unless doing so in controlled environments — driving should be the last thing to yield an adrenaline rush.
Making Memories: This one is straight from a car-company site. If I’m doing anything immediately relevant to me with the people I care about, I’m likely — nay, guaranteed — to make good memories. And from the amount of driving I’ve done, nothing about the act of driving itself seems (or should be) conducive to making memories — it’s when you reach your destination when the fun begins; rather, it should begin. Because when you’re on the road, the road should have all of your focus.
It’s then when I came across the only thing that enticed me to yield to the urge to get a car. It was the prospect of views.
Views: I’ve got no rebuttal to it. As you are in your own vehicle, you control your views. And, it must be an endless pleasure to try and get the view you want, I reckon.
All things considered, unless I were to move to a place without good-enough public transportation, I don’t see any use for a car. Everything good about getting one seems so only for a version of me that’d like to indulge in a luxuriant experience of a chance to explore the views, be alone (or more habitually together), & invoke not a deliberate but a dictated sense of freedom, happiness, & adrenaline rush.
I chose not to give in to those notions of control and happiness for the same reason I steer away (ha!) from drinking — an effortless, freeing sense of minimalism that discourages things without a focused but flexible usage in everyday life — things that don’t add to one’s stress levels by forcing one to spend their time in a way that appeals to the masses, all only to facilitate themselves of the desperate need for validation.
Phew! I know. But I had to get it all in.
Talking about getting it in, let’s not even talk about how hard it is to find parking space.
The Temptation For More
The cost associated with a car has an adverse psychological effect — it makes you want to go places and do things — it leads to a cursory lifestyle.
Psychological Effects: If I’m putting up most of my monthly income to pay for my rent, car, & sustenance, what am I saving? Given that large sum of money, I shouldn’t be indulging in any trips that aren’t immediately meaningful to me. But, ironically, I’d be going out even more often than I should, all to make sense of the money spent on it every month — because I can’t just be paying over a grand a month just to get to places. If I’m paying for the things I don’t use enough to justify their purchase, that’d be a poor financial decision. And, if I continue to put money into it, it’d be natural for me to find ways to make more money, overwork myself, and perhaps reach a breaking point where I’d be prone to do something illicit. I’d just become another pawn in the ever-so-pervasive rat race.
And, putting it bluntly, that sum seems too large to spend on a car, and that’s not factoring in the maintenance and unexpected costs.
Besides, there’s much more bad associated with cars than a localized sense of harm, and I know I mustn’t put my interests above that of the collective good — of our global communities — lest we incur gradual adversity associated with & the eventual wrath of the after-effects.
The Rot — Energy Usage, Pollution, & All That Entails
The following fragment from a knowledge-test website states that manufacturing a car utilizes tremendous energy to contribute to global warming.
“We have to expend energy to move a weight from one place to another. If that ‘weight’ is you it’s either energy you expend (walking or cycling) or it’s energy expended by something else, for example, a car. Energy has to be harnessed from somewhere and in the car’s case it will be petrol or diesel. The energy is converted into heat and other products (e.g. greenhouse gases). But let’s take it back further. To even create the car an enormous amount of energy must be expended:
· Mining and refining the metals and minerals used in the car
· Growing the leather used in the seats
· Shaping and assembling the car in a factory that also had to be built
· Shipping the car to its final destination
· Powering the car, i.e. driving around
As creating energy liberates heat, all this contributes to the general global warming effect.”
The website also states how narrower roads with rail lines could lead to lesser destruction of habitats. And, since roads are always dark-coloured — and since darker colours absorb more light — narrower roads would mean less heat absorption that would have a lesser warming effect on the immediate surroundings and the environment.
The same website mentions that about 20–30% of a used car can’t be recycled. The residual toxic chemicals & plastics can either enter our food system or remain in our environment for a long time — to enter our food system eventually.
The following excerpt from the website SFGate is a rather succinct expression of how emissions from cars and the production of the fuel that powers them adversely affect our environment.
The exhaust from a car releases hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which together react with sunlight to increase ground-level ozone. Car exhaust also releases carbon monoxide, which threatens human health, and carbon dioxide, which contributes significantly to global warming. Emissions are also released as gasoline evaporates, which particularly occurs during the hottest times of the day and while the car is hot from running, according to the EPA (see Reference 5).
Other Harmful Effects
Fuel production creates a significant amount of emissions, which drivers support by filling their tanks with gasoline. When considering the total average emissions produced throughout the life cycle of a car, fuel production accounts for 19 percent, according to the World Resources Institute. In addition, manufacturing a car and extracting the raw materials to create it produce emissions (see Reference 3).”
This one’s pretty self-evident.
But, here’s something — according to WHO, almost half of the city-dwelling population is exposed to noise levels far exceeding the threshold of safe levels.
Testaments, Critiques, & Solutions
According to this website (devoted to safe driving) and the studies quoted within, 40% of the licensed drivers would fail the written test.
The News Tribune interviewed and jotted down an entire article about why everyone is “bad at driving”.
This financial advice website stresses how — despite today’s vehicles being the safest — an improving economy leads to more drivers, prone to more distractions, driving at higher speeds, and how insufficient law enforcement makes four-wheelers much more dangerous to truck drivers today.
The article on the website Shape sheds light on what driving an average of two hours a day does to our bodies and how “road time is lost time”.
This article from Global News points out how even the most minor contributions matter & expresses the need for better alternatives — rail services, more bike lanes, & better bus routes.
So, I believe, given the current state of things, getting a car would be bad for me, you, and the environment; and, that’s doubly true if you run that backwards — what’s bad for the environment is terrible for everyone.
Statistics — That Helped Me Consolidate My Decision
Having skydiving on my bucket list seems less of an endeavour when a driver is 24 times more likely to die in a car accident.
The Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics: 2018 delineate that drivers hold 49.9% of the fatalities by traffic collisions.
The same statistic from above states that the totality of fatality for bicyclists was the lowest at 2.3% — which is the perfect segue to talk about what we can do to remedy our situation for saving the environment and boosting personal health and safety.
The Fix — The Alternatives
Financial Fix: I did the math, & driving a car can be around 6–9 times more expensive than transit.
And, if you incorporate bicycles and other eco-friendly means of personal transportation, that number increases effortlessly.
Cultivating Good Health: Biking eliminates the sedentary commute time and decreases your chances of developing diseases associated with it — which deciphers to: every non-genetic or physical-injury inflicted disease.
So, by yielding kinetic energy that it asks for as an input, you can yield yourself good health that it results in, as it engages almost all of your mind and muscles to boost your mental and physical health.
Safety & Security: The statistics above state that 2.3 % of all collisions resulted in the death of bicyclists, which is 25 times less than the risk drivers are exposed to. Why so?
Statistics: These two statistics (about fatality among drivers and bicyclists) themselves disclose a contradictory but equally existent combination — drivers’ due attention when driving with bicyclists and the (however due) lack of it when driving with other drivers.
Opinion: I believe there’s no room to slack when you’re actively pedalling or riding your e-scooter; you’re engaged with all your body, and you intuitively realize and respect others drivers and riders that you share the road with. And, because drivers not only notice but pay special attention to and respect the presence of a non-driver, that holds for drivers as well.
Faster Times & Scenic Routes: Yes — faster times and scenic routes. Unless you live in the wilderness sprayed with asphalt, e-biking, combined with public transit, would almost always beat your car-commute times in the city. And, you’ll see your surroundings and neighbourhoods like cars aren’t designed to facilitate.
A Sense of Purpose: When you plan a route with different travel modes, there’s a sense of certainty of the specific value you’re looking to yield from your trip, in contrast to just picking up your car and heading somewhere simply because you can.
It mandates one’s specificity of the trip, respect for time, and certainty about their decision to go somewhere. It makes you assertive about the things that need your attention so that when something doesn’t, it makes you question your convictions and subject yourself to change lest you become a slave to your circumstances — not unlike the multitude.
More Than Just an Overused Word
Public transit involves similar manufacturing and maintenance processes (to that of a car) but involves locomotion of the masses instead of scraping the earth for a ton of metal and plastic per person. Eco-friendly means of transportation such as bikes have a fractional manufacturing footprint as compared to four-wheelers. Why does that matter?
According to the laws of conservation of mass and energy-matter conversion principle, there will be an equal amount of resources on earth as there were before we started extracting them.
There will soon be a shortage of fresh-water supply, but all the surplus supply from years ago would (even then) exist in flora and fauna consuming it — like a disproportionate number of humans. Just like that, all the raw material — metal & plastics — we extract will continue to exist above the surface. And, extracting those resources definitively causes soil erosion, habitat destruction, & food-chain disruption, to name some of the preliminary hazards. Besides, that level of exploitation of resources — by unprecedentedly technological extractors — has the power to render the structural integrity of the earth’s crust itself volatile.
Deliberation & Decision
The amalgamated advantages of public transit and eco-friendly, personal means of transport make them cheaper, healthier, safer, faster, & more deliberate than a hunk of metal, plastic, & leather weighing over a ton to get a party of one or two across the town, all only to facilitate a false sense of security, superiority, and self-sufficiency.
So, for the abundance of the reasons above, I chose not to drive a car.