Taking the bus rather than the car can reduce mental stress by a third, according to new research.
- New research reveals hidden long-term mental health impact from driving
- Traffic congestion now outweighs benefits of private car
- National campaign to shift 1 billion car journeys to bus by 2014
The study by Dr David Lewis from The University of Sussex, who coined the term “road rage”, found that motorists face a hidden mental health impact from the stresses of driving, while bus travel can produce long-term health benefits.
The finding were revealed as Greener Journeys, a coalition of the UK’s major bus companies, launched a national campaign to shift a billion car journeys to the bus by 2014, saving 2 million tonnes of CO2. The first stage of the campaign will target Milton Keynes, Norwich and Exeter.
For the experiment, the heart rate and EDR (Electro-Dermal Response) of 30 commuters was measured when taking similar journeys by car and bus. The findings reveal a vast difference in EDR, a form of biophysical measurement that Dr Lewis describes as an excellent indicator of mental stress.
When examining the EDR results, the experiment found that taking the car produced significantly greater amounts of stress than taking the bus, which was 33% less stressful.
“EDR can be a hidden stress ? it’s not as visible as ‘white knuckle driving’ or audible as road rage. This type of stress can have long-term physiological and emotional implications. Boarding a bus can produce significant long-term health benefits,” said Dr Lewis.
In addition to the biophysical data, the subjects were asked to rank their stress levels for each trip with 93% saying they found driving more stressful. Most of them, Dr Lewis says, rarely used the bus yet said they found the bus journey to be the least stressful.
Claire Haigh, spokesperson for Greener Journeys says the chance to reduce stress might be a tipping point for commuters who are already concerned about the high levels of CO2 pollution produced by cars – often occupied only by the driver.
“A survey found a fifth of motorists would be prepared to swap to public transport for reasons to do with the environment. Just one double-decker bus can take 75 cars off the road considerably reducing emissions levels,” said Ms Haigh.
Dr David Lewis says there are three key factors that reduce the attraction and increase the stresses of driving a car.
- Driving in heavy traffic, especially against a deadlin, requires a high level of vigilance, even for experienced motorists. This requires the brain to work especially hard processing a myriad of incoming information and making, often split-second, decisions.
- Congestion and delays can raise blood pressure and physical tension which may manifest itself as ‘road rage’, a term coined by Dr Lewis in 1985 to describe the explosive outbursts of anger shown by some motorists. Increases in blood pressure can have serious long-term health consequences as well as causing drivers sometimes to take reckless and foolish decisions behind the wheel.
- A sense of frustration of ‘wasting one’s life’ behind the wheel of the car, unable to do anything more productive than casual conversations or listening to the radio. On a bus it is possible to fill the time more profitably by doing some work or reading.
He also notes that highly trained, professional bus drivers are skilled in negotiating the challenges of the road, and the relief of trusting someone else to be in charge of the journey, is a key part of what makes taking the bus less stressful.
“This study shows that driving in congested traffic, now outweighs any previous benefits that driving in a private car once gave,” said Dr Lewis.
Ms Haigh says the Greener Journeys campaign encourages people to get out of their cars and on to the bus for trips where it makes sense – such as shopping in town, heading to a restaurant or pub or going to the movies.
“For these trips taking the bus means you don’t need to battle traffic, find parking and pay for it. Switching simple journeys can help achieve our goal of taking a billion car journeys off the road. All it will take is everyone shifting around a trip a month.”
To mark its commitment to getting Britons out of their cars Greener Journeys is giving away a million free bus trips to encourage consumers to get on board.
The Greener Journeys consumer campaign launches nationwide today with additional local activity being piloted in Milton Keynes, Norwich and Exeter. The coalition includes major operators including Arriva, FirstGroup, National Express and Stagecoach.
For further information, and for your chance to win ten free bus tickets, go towww.greenerjourneys.com. There are 100,000 carnets of ten tickets to be won.
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Notes to Editors
Greener Journeys is a member of The Climate Clinic – a coalition of the leading environment and development organisations demanding political action on climate change. Other members include WWF, Greenpeace and Unicef. Climate Clinic is running a series of Fringe events at the party conference this year. Transport forms one of these events where there will be a robust discussion on transport and bus travel to ensure politicians are fully engaged with the issue.
Greener Journeys is working with government and local authorities to accelerate the adoption of a range of pro bus and coach policies that will make it easier for people to make sustainable transport choices. For example, it is calling on government to allow bus season tickets and travel cards to be paid for out of people’s pre tax income and to encourage salary sacrifice schemes. Greener Journeys is also seeking better priority measures for bus and coaches, and more support for park and ride schemes, which have a proven track record in encouraging greener travel by bus.