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The daily battle: Metropolitan commutes

If you have a job, chances are that you have to travel to get to your workplace. And if you commute by car in our capital cities, it's likely that you're familiar with the struggles of peak hour traffic: cars sitting bumper-to-bumper, horns sounding and the general fight to get to your destination on time.

It's no secret that some commuter routes are worse than others. In fact, some roads in and out of cities are notorious for their traffic jams and slow pace. But while many complain about traffic congestion, is it really all that bad? Well, studies show that yes, it is.

Long commutes can impact on a person's psychological, emotional, and physiological wellbeing. (Source: Flood, M., Barbato, C., 2005, Off to work, Discussion Paper Number 78, The Australia Institute, vii).

Measuring commuter pain

In 2010, IBM surveyed 1,500 car commuters across five Australian cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) aged 18-64 yearsi. The survey recorded the economic and emotional toll on commuters in each city and these results were compiled into IBM's aptly-named Commuter Pain Index (CPI). The cities were awarded a number between 1 and 100, with 100 being the most "painful" or stressful for commuters.

According to the survey, Sydney has a CPI of 40 - the highest across the Australian cities surveyed, ahead of Brisbane (34), Melbourne (32), Adelaide (22) and Perth (19)ii. Comparatively though, Australians seem to have it pretty good: on an international scale all five Australian CPI scores were considerably lower than Beijing (99), Mexico City (99) and Johannesburg (97). Perth is on par with New York City (19) and Adelaide drivers fare slightly better than people in Christchurch (23).

Average commute on roads, measured by time and speed across five major Australian cities (IBM, 2010, Australian Commuter Pain Survey).
Major city Average commute (mins) Average speed (km/h)
Sydney 35 34
Melbourne 32 34
Brisbane 29 39
Adelaide 29 37
Perth 27 47

Road congestion and its impact on you

While congestion and peak hours are all part of city life, a study from the Australia Institute shows that the daily commute contributes to commuters' stress levelsiii. Consequently, extended and unpredictable trips can significantly impact a person's psychological, emotional, and physiological wellbeingiii.

What's more, separate reports from scholars at the University of Auckland and Texas A&M University have found that traffic flow characteristics including traffic volume have a direct influence on the likelihood and severity of a car accidentiv. A University of Auckland report on traffic crashes and flow conditions goes further, stating that rear end crashes usually occur in stop-and-go conditions ('traffic oscillation') and that these type of rear-end, non-injury crashes happen more often during the afternoon peak hours with congested conditionsv.

Congestion may be frustrating, but staying focused and calm can help to make your trip an accident-free one.

According to the Commuter Pain study, four out of five Australians said that commuting by car was frustrating. Brisbane drivers claimed to feel the most stressed, with 90% of respondents saying that traffic increases their stress levels, followed by people in Adelaide (81%), Melbourne (78%) and Sydney (74%)i. Motorists in Perth claim to be the least stressed: only 73% of respondents reported increased stress due to traffici.

Peak-hour traffic can be frustrating and stressful. But while that may be so, you should always prioritise your safety and not let travel stress overwhelm you. And if you're driving on the roads, car insurance can cover you in the event of an accident, theft or damage to your car. Get a quote in just 2 minutes from Allianz.


i IBM, 2010, Australian Commuter Pain Study White Paper

i Flickr, 2010, IBM Commuter Paid Study - Australian Index, http://www.flickr.com/photos/ibmanz/5443971761/

iii Flood, M., Barbato, C., 2005, Off to work, Discussion Paper Number 78, The Australia Institute, http://www.melbourneinstitute.com/downloads/hilda/Bibliography/Working+Discussion+Research_Papers/2005/Flood_etal_Commuting_in_Australia.pdf

iv Lord, D., Manar, A., Vizioli, A., 2004, Modeling crash-flow-density and crash-flow-V/C ration relationships for rural and urban freeway segments, Accident Analysis & Prevention, vol. 37, no. 1, http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0001457504000703, p.185-99

v Zafar, R., Wilson, D., 2011, Traffic Crashes and Traffic Flow Conditions On Auckland's SH1 Southern Motorway, University of Auckland, http://www.hardingconsultants.co.nz/ipenz2011/downloads/Zafar__Rabia.pdf, p.10


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