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Telecommuting -- A Safe Ride

A commentary on the hazards of traditional commuting...

© 1998, by Rick Johnson

In America the highway lures people with a sense of motion, captivating curves, and a never-ending parade of colorful cars. It's almost like a circus, complete with rides, thrills, sounds and spills. It's the biggest show in town, and it's one of the deadliest, too.

Last year nearly 40,000 American men, women, and children died after visiting this circus. Hundreds of thousands more were injured -- many disabled so they could no longer work, go to school, or enjoy their lives as before. Billions of dollars worth of property were lost. Billions more were spent on funerals, hospitalization, therapy, and long-term care.

And yet, the circus is still in business. It's big business, too. Maybe even bigger, today, than it was back in the early 60's, when consumer advocate Ralph Nader wrote in his book "Unsafe At Any Speed":

"...the gigantic costs of the highway carnage in this country support a service industry. A vast array of services -- medical, police, administrative, legal, insurance, automotive repair, and funeral -- stand equipped to handle the direct and indirect consequences of accident injuries. Traffic accidents create economic demands for these services running into billions of dollars."

Three decades later hundreds of thousands of people are still being hurt on our highways. This in spite of the fact that billions are being spent to make our cars more "crash worthy" and our highways wider and "safer." Does it matter that millions of good people and families have been destroyed or disabled during the 20th Century? Does anyone care?

Fortunately, many people care. Many people are devoting their lives to making highways and vehicles safer. Other people are also beginning to look at new perspectives about transportation to end the killing and maiming that legions of "crash test dummies" can't seem to stop. One perspective that offers new hope is "conservation of commuting." Conservation of commuting includes activities such as ride consolidation, ride sharing, and a relatively new activity -- telecommuting.

Until recently telecommuting was promoted and accepted because it saves energy, reduces pollution, increases productivity, and saves time and money. Now, throughout America and around the world, more and more people are beginning to recognize that telecommuting has very important safety and health benefits, as well. Listen to Michaela, who writes:

"Delighted to see your efforts! I used to commute 30 mins to/from my Multimedia job on a very congested freeway, with a dangerous switch of four lanes within 1/4 mile in order to get to my exit. I now telecommute from home exclusively and love it. I believe I would have eventually been involved in a serious car accident had I continued commuting, as I witnessed such accidents on a daily basis.

I now save time, money, the environment and my health by telecommuting. I'm fortunate to have such a flexible employer and I hope others will follow their example."

There are millions of people who face unsafe highway commutes every day. Many of those people could telecommute and improve their safety, as Michaela has done. Michaela and her employer should be highly commended for helping to make highways safer by not using them unnecessarily.

Before long, much of the death and destruction that's taking place on American highways and throughout the world will end. More people will be allowed to telecommute, and more people will be allowed to live.

Rick Johnson is founder of the Telecommuting Safety & Health Benefits Institute.

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