Car Sharing - A Neglected Solution?

by : Charles Cridland

With congestion continuing to rise on Britain's roads a number of solutions have been proposed, raising tax being the main one. However, every day in the UK there are over 10 million empty seats on the roads. Worse still, the vast majority of these empty seats are during the rush hour, with average occupancy for commuting only 1.2. The solution appears to be simple - car sharing. This is further supported by recent research which found that over 50% of commuters would car share on their way to work if they could find someone suitable to share with.

Car sharing has often been talked about but only ever considered to be a small scale solution, unlikely to have a significant effect on congestion levels. Again, the evidence suggests otherwise. A 25% increase in car occupancy levels would result in the number of commuting cars on the road falling by 21%. Put another way, if everyone shared a journey to work just once a week then the effect would be similar. With over 50% of people happy to try car sharing out this could be an attainable target.

So why has car sharing failed to take off in a big way? Put simply, a lack of funding. Without the money to raise awareness of car sharing and the ways to go about finding someone to share with, the concept of car sharing is always going to be doomed to being an insignificant solution.

Why hasn't the funding been provided by the government, particularly in light of the many reports that have come out over recent years highlighting the potential of car sharing? One can only speculate but to governments the idea of car sharing isn't so attractive. It generates no additional government revenue and is in fact likely to reduce it, particularly with the decline in fuel consumption. Compared with the prospect of continuing to dramatically increase taxes on motorists, many of whom have no choice but to use their cars, car sharing doesn't stand a chance.

The benefits of car sharing are also often vastly underestimated. Car sharing does hugely reduce petrol consumption for the individuals involved and if promoted in a large way then congestion and pollution could be reduced significantly. Other benefits include reduced parking problems and the lower mileage done by each car means that they depreciate less rapidly.

However, one statistics that is overlooked is the impact of car sharing on road safety. The number of speeding fines handed out in the UK in 2005 reached the 2 million mark. With road safety being of such apparent importance the statistic that the likelihood of having an accident is reduced by 50% if there are two or more people in the car should make the relevant authorities sit up and take note. The way to increase road safety is to promote car sharing. The added fact that it is also makes driving cheaper for the individual, and reduces congestion and pollution, should encourage people to take car sharing seriously.

Becoming involved in car sharing is very straightforward. was established in 1997 and now has over 130,000 members one million journeys registered. It's also free to join, with a simple registration form to complete before you can register a journey and begin searching for travel companions. Whether you're traveling to work, a festival or a sporting event car sharing is possible.