Carpooling: Past, Present, and Future
Half a century ago, hitchhiking was a safe, acceptable, and practical way for people to go from place to place. Stick out your thumb and after a short time, a person would stop and offer you a ride, if you were going his way. Many people hitchhiked because they had no other way to travel. Many did it for the adventure of meeting someone new and expanding their horizons. In today’s American society, hitchhiking is no longer viewed as a safe and benign way to travel, for the driver or the hitchhiker. Some Americans are now using a variant of hitchhiking called carpooling however, as a way to save money, gas, and the planet.
Getting It Organized
Carpooling or ride-sharing became a more formal, organized and established mode of travel after the oil crisis which began on October 17, 1973. Groups are usually made up of commuters and may be as informal as agreeing to share the commuting responsibility between two drivers and vehicles, thus saving wear and tear, gas, and effort. Larger, more organized groups often use the Internet to connect with participants. Many countries have established HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes to encourage carpooling.
Do the Crime & Pay the Fine
Any time one group is treated preferentially over others, those others will revolt, or in the case of single occupant vehicles, use the HOV lane illegally. Auto insurance carriers in some states view this as a moving violation and will consequently raise your rates if you are cited, usually if there are repeat offenses. Attending a traffic or driver safety school can erase HOV violations from your record. Since so few of us use the HOV lanes these days, it’s rather tempting to sneak a free ride now and then. Some enterprising individuals actually employ mannequins as passengers just to fool police.
Car Insurance and Carpooling
If you carpool by using someone else’s vehicle and can prove it, you can usually get your car insurance agent to discount the rate for your car. On the other hand, participating in a carpool can present a new set of liabilities that you need to be aware of. You need to know if your policy covers all the people riding in your car. If it is not clear from reading your policy, make sure your agent explains your coverage to you. Make sure you explain how you will use your car in your carpooling situation. Never be caught without enough auto insurance. Consider upping your coverage limits and multiplying your policy for every seatbelt in the car. Make sure you are insured yourself and always take advantage of all safety equipment you have in the car.
The economic forecast calls for a deepening of the 2008 recession, with gasoline prices continuing to rise. Carpooling may seem like an inconvenience, but checking the Internet now for carpooling connections just for practice will help make it easier when you decide to do it for real: when you have to do it for real. Many people shun the idea of carpooling because it is an imposition on ones privacy and requires going out of ones way to accommodate others. Some people may want to shift their attitudes when they consider the alternatives. A popular fuel-saving slogan from WWII, “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler.” is being rephrased for contemporary times. “When you ride ALONE you ride with bin Laden.”