/ Motoring

Why I’m smug about being a non-driver

Traffic jam

Did you drive home for Easter? No doubt it was gridlock, with many starting an 11-day break. And then motorists have to pay excessive fuel costs and wallet-breaking insurance – I sure am happy not to be a driver.

It was sweltering this Easter. So add a bunch of bank holidays and the Royal Wedding tomorrow, that’s made it chock-a-block on the roads.

The AA estimated that there were 18 million car journeys over the Easter weekend. But that’s just one reason why I’m happy I don’t drive a car. I don’t even have a driving licence – something I have regretted over the years. But, as of late, I’ve been a tad smug.

Fuel costs are spiralling

I’ve watched fuel costs soar, with record prices this week. A litre of petrol has gone up by 14.92p since last Easter, with diesel rising by 20.09p, according to the AA.

A two-car family apparently spends over £30 more a month on petrol compared to last year. I’m sure it won’t be long until motorists will have to pay £2 a litre.

Too many added extras

My smugness continues with the unfortunate reality of car insurance. Hikes in the price of insurance have surely made getting from A to B by car even more expensive than rail travel – which is quite a feat to beat in itself.

And since I’d be a new driver if I was to start now, I’d probably be paying similar insurance costs to teenagers. That means it’ll be around three grand. Yeah, no thanks – I’d like to put that towards a house thank you.

And then there’s parking charges, unfair parking fines, yearly MOTs and congestion charges in London. Oh and I’d also have to buy the damn car in the first place. I could go on, but the smell of my own smugness is starting to make me pass out – its fumes rivalling those of the traffic on Marylebone road outside Which? HQ.

Yes, I’m quite happy that I don’t drive. Even though I’m sure my colleagues in Which? Car will vehemently disagree with me.

Sure, rail travel isn’t perfect and my legs can only take me so far, but I don’t feel I’m under any disadvantage. In fact, my bank balance feels a whole lot heavier for not driving. Maybe you’ll give up your car and join me?

Comments
Member

I didn’t learn to drive until my mid-twenties. It’s difficult to learn later in life. I’m more assertive than I was at 17. My instructor would ask me to take the next left and I’d deliberately go right (checking my mirrors and indicating correctly of course!) because I knew she was trying to take me on a dual carriageway which I wanted to avoid. It took 70 or so lessons and 3 driving tests before I passed!

I’m so used to using public transport I often set off walking or hop on a train before I’ve even considered getting in the car. I used to have a ‘pay as you drive’ insurance scheme which worked out quite nicely for an infrequent driver like me. But they scrapped it as it obviously wasn’t popular – or profitable! I use the car for some journeys but use public transport where possible.

Member

I’m a non-driver by choice too – I got rid of my car about 3 years ago and haven’t really missed it. Then again, living in london makes it a no-brainer – excellent public transport links, high parking and congestion charges, the price of petrol, higher crime rates etc etc. If I lived in the middle of nowhere though I guess it would be a different matter.

The only downside is that I now have to be much more organised than I used to be. I’m heading up to Grimsby tomorrow morning and only paid £11.55 for a single ticket because I booked well in advance. While I couldn’t drive there for that price, I also know that a walk-on fare probably would have cost me £70 – quite a difference based only on when you book.

The final advantage of being a non-driver is that I won’t encounter Charlotte on the M1…

Member
Linda says:
30 April 2011

I do not agree that taxpayers should be funding your subsidised travels. The railways get roughly 50% of their funding from the taxpayers. This should be cut to zero. Perhaps then we’d see a little less smugness from non car users

Member

Linda,
Try to use your brain and think before you speak out – likewise the 14 agrees: forget the “smug” non-drivers and for a second consider the people who cannot drive due to age, disability, financial hardship, illness and so on. Remembering that at any moment YOU could become one of them, perhaps through crashing your car or being crashed into by another motorist, or maybe through some terribly illness that I would not wish on anyone such as a stroke, tell me why such unfortunate people should be ripped off by high fares because of YOUR selfish attitude. Bear in mind too that most people in the position I describe are tax payers like you too.

Quite apart from the above also try to think about the fact that non-drivers through choice, smug or not, also pay the taxes to which you refer as if only you pay them.

Member

“”or maybe through some terribly illness that I would not wish on anyone such as a stroke, tell me why such unfortunate people should be ripped off by high fares””

So you view paying the true cost of the service as ‘ripped off’. Its not being ripped off, its paying what it costs. People already feel they’re ripped off by fares when in fact they’re still not paying what the service they use actually costs, they’re still being subsidised.

I also feel the taxpayer should seek better value for money in its subsidy of public transport. Its an unprofitable business and wouldnt exist but for the taxpayer’s help, already this Government is cutting the Government subsidy and passengers will be forced to pay closer to the true cost of their journeys, just like drivers. In terms of Dave’s argument about disability, my mother is disabled and car is her only viable means of transport, even if the disabled person cannot drive you can get financial help, motability car for someone to drive you to where you need to go in it. The elderly receive bus passes anyway (something i do not think should be cut).In most cases people who have severe disability need a car (even if its not them driving it), not a bus. Because getting on and off of trains, catching taxi’s, walking places etc isnt possible for them. I think there should be some sort of system for fuel duty rebate for disabled drivers, Bus operators get a rebate, and Trains pay hardly anything and still cant turn a profit. Planes pay no Fuel Duty or VAT on fuel either.

The Government raises money (5p i think) per each mile travelled by car, but it loses 6p a mile travelled by Bus and a shocking 21p a mile travelled by Train. The car is the most economic form of travel when all costs are taken into account, proving personal transport is still more economically efficient than trains and buses. We obviously need trains and buses in society, not everybody can drive a car but we need to look for better value for money in the system. I dont think any form of Transport should be a rip off, transport is the most important part of any economy’s bloodline and is vital.

Member

I’m not a smug non-driver, – I can’t drive. I just don’t have an aptitude for it. After 50 lessons I I was getting nowhere, and anyway I can’t afford to have more lessons and run a car, even if I did pass. I’m sick of how there is a mindset in society that everyone must drive, and it is getting very difficult to find a job where they accept non-drivers. I would say the smugness lies on the driver’s side.

Member
evie says:
29 April 2011

I do drive, but try to use the car as little as possible – partly for environmental reasons, but also because of the cost. I used to go to work by bus, but when fares were increased I changed to my bicycle, although there are still a few days when I go by car. Unfortunately where I live in Sheffield it is very hilly, so buses only follow a few set routes into the centre. This means that if I want to go anywhere other than the centre, public transport is not practical, and I’m afraid I can’t cope with all the hills yet! However I would hope soon to be able to hire a car as and when necessary, rather than have it sitting on the drive and costing money every day.

Member

I’m a driver, but I recently sold my old car. My girlfriend and I now share just her car as it made no sense having two old uneconomical cars in the household.

However, in the week, we don’t drive at all. I commute from St albans to London and live 10 minutes walk from the station so no need to drive in the week at all unless we’re shopping.

We did just do St Albans to Beddgelert (Snowdonia) and managed to bypass all the traffic on the M1 and M6, we took the M40 and had no problems. No issues on the way back either, until we got to the M1 which was closed, so we took the M40 again.

We drove loads of places (you need a car in Wales) and including the journey there and back, only took 2 tanks of fuel. For a 2 litre turbo, that ain’t half bad.

So filling the car up now costs £15 more than it used to, honestly, big effin deal. The amount of enjoyment I get from driving negates any price increase.

So I actually feel more smug than you Patrick, I love driving and I have a fast car. I enjoy going to track days and thrashing down autobahns and nordschleife’s. I have 7 years no claims on my insurance and can afford the price increases because of the freedom and enjoyment that my car gives me.

Also I don’t live in London and am at the age where it doesn’t matter to me if I don’t 🙂

Smug Alarm!! 🙂

Member

I don’t drive either, partly because I hate it, partly because it’s expensive, and partly because (I know most people don’t like to admit this) I am extremely bad at it.

But because I’ve never owned a car, and have only driven a few times after I passed my test, it doesn’t seem like much of a loss. I can understand why people who don’t live near a train station, or who travel to out-of-the-way places regularly, might want one, but I think some people become used to having a car (or a friend with a car) on hand that they forget the joys of public transport.

Linda – I think your comments are a bit unfair – the trains are for everyone, whether you choose to use them or not, so there’s no real problem with them being part-funded by the taxpayer. Taxpayers fund so much – children’s centres, sports groups, car parks – that no individual could e