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6 Signs Your Commute is Making You Sick

Frustrated girl in the traffic

Frustrated girl in the trafficAs the average American commute lengthens (it's now a 26-minute drive to work, up 20% since 1980), it is important to consider the adverse effects this traveling can have on your health.

Here are six ways to tell if your commute is negatively impacting your well-being:

1. You're coming down with a cold more often. This due to the fact that you are exposed to many bacteria and viruses in an environment as small and as public as a bus or train.

2. You keep having to set your alarm earlier and earlier. If you’ve ever set your alarm a half-an-hour, an hour, two hours earlier than usual just to “beat traffic”, then you know the taxing weight of sleep deprivation that seems to come with the job. What you may not realize is that sleep deprivation is more than just a nuisance that makes you tired all the time; it can pose serious health risks. LA sleep expert Michael J. Breus, PhD, warns that sleep deprivation “slows our reaction time, and that driving when tired or drowsy is like driving when drunk.” Sleep deprivation also leads to slowed cognition and chronic anxiety.

3. You have a bit of road rage. Sitting in traffic for long periods of time can really grind your gears, which can lead to anxiety. This will also raise your stress levels and, hence, blood pressure, possibly culminating in the development of serious heart issues such as heart attacks and heart disease.

4. The left side of your face is aging faster. Something that may not have crossed your mind before is the fact that while driving, the left side of your face is hit more directly by the sun’s rays than your right side, causing it to age faster. Imagine having wrinkles and dark spots only on the left side of your face.

5. Your commute feels just as long as your work day. Sitting for long periods of time can cause deep venous thrombosis, heart disease, diabetes, and premature death. It is advised to “get off of the train a stop or two early to get blood flowing, take a walk at lunch, or if you have a desk job, get up and walk to tell a colleague something instead of sending an email," according to personal trainer Ivica Marc. Follow these steps to help your body recover from sitting all day.

6. Your bicycle has emboldened you. The number of people use bike to work has increased by 64% from 2000 to 2013. That's great news, but it also means an increased risk of accidents and injuries. To minimize this risk, pay attention to the rules of the road and follow them; if you are unfamiliar with them, we encourage you to look them up. And of course, wear the proper safety equipment. Whether you are traveling in your car, by bus, train, or bicycle, we urge you to use your common sense and stay safe.

 

 

Record Number of Traffic Deaths in 2016

405traffic

405trafficMore people are dying on California roads—and across the country.

Both California and the U.S. saw a hike in traffic fatalities last year, reaching their highest level in nearly a decade. In the state, roughly 3,680 people died in traffic collisions, a 13% increase from the previous year. Nationally, that number hit an estimated 40,000, compared to 37,757 in 2015, the sharpest one-year increase in 53 years.

According to the National Safety Council, which released the report, the record increases can be partly attributed to the economic recovery. More people are on the roads now, which leads to more accidents. Another reason for the uptick is our fatalistic sense of complacency, said the council's president and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman.

"Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn't true," Hersman continued.

In fact, there are many things we can do to be safer on the road. Among them include the mandatory use of ignition interlock devices to keep impaired drivers from starting their cars, using automated cameras to track speeds, pedestrian safety programs, and expanded use of automated driving devices such as emergency braking and blind-spot and lane-departure warnings.

As drivers, there are things individually that we can do to stay safe. Follow the four-second rule, slow down, be in the moment and just drive, and above all, be alert, Bruins.

 

Study Shows Vanpools Drastically Lower Stress

Vanpool_poolparty001

Vanpool_poolparty001For stressed-out commuters, joining a vanpool might be one step toward a more relaxed 2016. A UCLA study shows that vanpooling drastically lowers the stress of commuting.

“Riders indicated that participating in a vanpool was a source of dramatic reduction in stress and some even said that it was therapeutic,” said Wendie Robbins, the study’s lead researcher and a professor in the UCLA School of Nursing and in the Fielding School of Public Health. “Riders said that their time on the van was restful and provided a chance to meditate, relax, listen to music or just be at peace.”

Vanpooling has long been touted as a way for riders to reduce pollution and traffic while saving money. While there have been studies on the health benefits of active commuting — walking or bicycling — as well as those of taking a bus or train, the health impact of vanpooling hasn’t previously been studied.

“Health Effects of Vanpooling to Work,” published in the journal Workplace Health and Safety, looked at passengers’ and drivers’ perceptions of how vanpooling affected their health and well-being.

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UCLA carpool and vanpool participants commute from far and wide

Participants were recruited through the UCLA Vanpool Program, which has nearly 1500 participants and is one of the largest employer-based vanpool programs in California. Researchers conducted focus groups with 40 vanpool riders and two drivers.

“We know that driving alone is very isolating and creates stress,” said Penny Menton, director of communications and commuter services for UCLA Transportation. “When you ride with others, you become connected and create an environment of relaxation and interaction.”

UCLA carpool and vanpool participants commute from far and wide.

The researchers were surprised by riders’ fierce commitment to vanpooling, Robbins said. “You have to give up independent choices – when you leave, the temperature in the van, who you ride with. Riders are willing to compromise for the reduced stress of not having to drive.”

Menton, one of the original creators of the UCLA Vanpool Program, agreed. “We started this program almost 32 years ago to help reduce traffic during the 1984 Summer Olympics. We have riders who have been with the program since the beginning, including two drivers, and the only way they leave is when they retire. The vanpool becomes like family.”

UCLA vanpool

UCLA Vanpool

One of these longtime fans is Stan Paul, who works at the UCLA Lu
skin School of Public Affairs and commutes more than 160 miles round-trip each day from the Inland Empire. Paul has been a volunteer driver for most of that time. His vanpool gets 10 other UCLA employees to work and back, and takes that many cars off the road.

“For me, there really hasn’t been any other viable alternative since I started,” Paul said. “I would give up the commute in a second, but not the vanpool as long as I do have to commute.”

Riders did mention a few downsides, including disturbed sleep patterns and the risk of illness, but they saw these as relatively minor issues.

“For many of the vans, napping has become a norm, something that many riders actually look forward to,” Robbins said.

The next steps in the research are to quantify the health impacts of vanpooling, both positive and negative, and potentially to develop strategies to address them. For example, if some vanpoolers experience resultant sleep issues, employers could develop programs for employees to improve sleep habits.

The study’s other authors were Barbara Berman, professor emerita in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and Dawn Stone, a Ph.D. candidate in the UCLA School of Nursing.

The study was funded by the UCLA Foundation/Mary Ann Lewis Enhancement, the UCLA Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Southern California Education and Research Center.

10 Traffic Myths That Survived 2015

Skyline of Los Angeles with freeway traffic,CA

Skyline of Los Angeles with freeway traffic,CA

  1. More Roads Equal Less Traffic – It seems logical, right? If there’s more space on the road, then there won’t be as much congestion. Wrong. That’s because putting in more roads is sending an open invitation to people to start driving their cars. It’s called “induced demand,” and it leads to even more traffic.
  1. More Transit Equals Less Traffic – This follows the same logic as more roads. People think that if more commuters start taking the bus or train, it’ll open up more space on the highways. Wrong again. What do you think will happen with that extra space? Motorists will flock to it like ants on a hill. Exhibit A: This recent analysis of the new Expo light rail line in Los Angeles found no change in travel times along the nearby 10 freeway. It did find, however, several other significant benefits of an integrated transit system.
  1. Bike Lanes Make Traffic Worse – This is the argument heard over and over again from anti-bike laners. The debate over bike lanes on Westwood Blvd centered around this myth as well. But studies have proven that well-designed bike lanes improve traffic. Like in New York City, where car lanes were reduced from 12 to 10 feet, protected left turn lanes were implemented in addition to bike lanes, and they were able to reduce travel times by as much as 35%.
  1. Wider Roads Are Safer – Here’s that space issue again. The common perception is that wider roads give drivers more space to maneuver their vehicle, which makes it safer for everyone. What is actually does is lead to increased driving speeds, which makes it more dangerous for everyone on the road.
  1. The Next Lane Over is Moving Faster – It’s a “roadway illusion” created by the fact that it takes longer to be passed than to pass someone else. In short, we watch drivers pass us more often than we see ourselves passing other drivers. That lane next to yours isn’t really moving any faster.  But drivers continue to change lanes about every 1.25 seconds. This constant weaving in and out of traffic is not only very risky behavior, it adds to traffic.
  1. Traffic is Bad Because Everyone Else is a Bad Driver – Ever heard of “shockwave” traffic jams? Every imperceptibly imprecise move in a car (tapping the brake too hard or gassing it for too long) sends a ripple effect of congestion back through the rest of the road. So the problem is everyone’s inability to hold a steady speed and following distance.
  1. Get Lots of Cars Off the Road to Reduce Traffic – Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take much to make an impact when it comes to traffic. In fact, removing only 1% of vehicles from the rush-hour commute causes an 18% reduction in travel times. Remember Carmageddon? Popemageddon? Instead of the crippling traffic everyone thought there would be, thanks to social media (namely Kim Kardashian), some drivers avoided impacted routes and traffic moved pretty smoothly.
  1. Eliminating a Major Highway would Make the Commute Worse – When Toronto’s city planners voted not to tear down a mile-long stretch of elevated highway for a city boulevard, the rationale was that it would cause a traffic disaster. However, studies have shown that removing highways don’t always make traffic worse. What actually happens is some cars just disappear. Why? It’s a phenomenon called “disappearing traffic.” When the road they normally take is removed or altered, drivers adapt by changing their route or simply not driving at all.
  1. Cheap Gas is Better for Everyone – In 2015, gas prices were incredibly low, and for this, many drivers rejoiced. But it’s not all good news. Maybe your bank account is a bit healthier, but there’s a bunch of hidden social costs of driving, estimated at about $3.3 trillion a year. At least $1 trillion of that can be attributed to time lost at home and at work to being stuck in traffic. Plus, cheaper gas mean more cars on the road, and more cars on the road means more accidents.
  1. Drivers Pay the Full Cost of Road Maintenance – This has been the belief since before we landed on the moon. Americans, however, actually have some of the lowest gas taxes in the world. It’s not nearly enough to cover the full cost of public roads. For the first time in 20 years, government officials opted not to raise gas taxes and instead relied on other funding sources, further putting a wedge between motorists and the cost of road repairs.

Weekly Wrap-Up

 
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