Commuters in the Middle East and North Africa spend a lot of their working day behind the wheel. According to one study, UAE drivers are affected the most, logging an average of 96 minutes in each direction – or more than 43.5 days a year – getting to and from work.
It’s not only drivers in the UAE who face a lengthy drive to work. In Egypt (84 minutes), Bahrain (78 minutes) and Saudi Arabia (76 minutes), commuters all spend far more time commuting to and from work in their cars than the global average (69 minutes).
Many who commute alone find the solitude relaxing. It gives them time to think about the day ahead, make plans for the week or simply relax and listen to great music. Many others find the commute frustrating, their thinking time derailed by heavy traffic and crazy driving conditions.
“Dealing with congestion and other drivers can be the single most stressful thing we do on a daily basis,” said Adriaan Coetzee, Ford Middle East and Africa’s Product Marketing director. “That’s why it’s important that we take stock of what we’re doing. That’s why you need to start thinking and driving like a boss.”
What do we mean by “driving like a boss”? Simple. It’s covered in a short video Ford created here – but, in essence, it’s all about controlling the things you can, and managing the things you can’t. It is simply a state of mind, seeing opportunity in stressful situations and adapting to any chaos in a cool and collected manner.
It’s about sitting back, relaxing and focusing on what’s important to you, and not allowing the stress of the outside world to bother you. Below is a list of things you can do to help make your commute a lot more enjoyable.
1. Start by decluttering the car
It doesn’t take long to accumulate a bit of junk in your car – and while it may not get as bad as this case in the UK, a clean interior makes it a much better place to be. It’s far easier to enjoy clear thoughts when your car is clean, so spend a few minutes clearing out the rubbish and removing anything you don’t need.
Empty the cupholders of coins, the storage bins of old receipts and the floors of old water bottles and any other daily detritus that you have accumulated. Don’t forget to check under the seats for loose items, and make sure you also clear out the boot.
2. Reduce your morning anxiety
Running late creates stress, so give yourself plenty of time to get ready for work. Leaving late means arriving late, and also leaves little room for any issues you may strike with traffic on the way. Leaving a little earlier can make all the difference, particularly at peak traffic times.
A quick scan of navigation apps like Waze, which works with SYNC3, will give you an early indication of what the traffic is like on your usual route, so you can plan accordingly.
3. Create a relaxing atmosphere
Make your car a haven of calmness by spritzing something nice around the cabin. Smell is one of our most powerful senses – the smell of a new car is one people enjoy the most – but there are other scents that will help perk you up when you’re feeling a little jaded. According to this report, the following smells help centre the mind when under stress:
Lemon scent helps you to focus and relax
Lavender helps to control stress
Jasmine calms the nerves and boosts confidence
Cinnamon also helps fight fatigue and boosts concentration and focus
4. Ease off the gas
Drive angry and you’ll probably burn more fuel. The harder you press the throttle and accelerate, the more fuel you’ll use – between 20-30% more, according to this report.
By regulating your right foot, you’ll not only make every tank of fuel last a lot longer, but you’ll be more relaxed behind the wheel and have more time to react to situations as they arise. Plus, easing back a bit on your speed puts you in an easier mood.
5. Feeling the heat? Change your music
Music affects your mood, and while high-intensity music can help drivers focus and react to high demand situations faster, it can also make you more emotional and more prone to stress.
If you’re feeling hot under the collar, then use SYNC 3 to switch out your music for something a little more relaxing. And don’t dilly-dally: Studies show that rapid changes in music are more effective in calming drivers down than gradual changes. So, if your SlipKnot tunes are starting to make your heart race, then try something a little more laid back. Better still, put on an audible book or comedy show: laughter not only lightens the mood, but has also been shown to stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles and soothe tension.
6. Ignore the tailgaters and boy-racers
By ignore, we don’t mean don’t take notice. We mean, don’t allow the stress of other drivers to impact the way you drive. After all, being mindful at all times is what being a safe driver is all about
It doesn’t matter how close you stick to the speed limit or settle into Adaptive Cruise Control, there will always be someone willing to cut you up and slide into the gap in front or zoom up from behind and stick to your rear bumper, flashing their headlights until you get out of the way. There will always be someone who treats every set of traffic lights as though they’re preparing to launch a quarter-mile drag race, and there will always be those drivers who thread through traffic, switching from lane-to-lane without using their indicators.
Let them. Let it go. You’re not responsible for their actions, and it’s not your job to correct them. Concentrate on your own driving and do your best to avoid the consequences of theirs.
There are a few things you can do to help, like keeping the inner-most overtaking lane clear. That will allow faster drivers to pass, and should mean that it will be clear when you need to use it. Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) will help you to make sure your blind spots are clear, and Adaptive Cruise Control will help you to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead. Some Ford models are also equipped with a speed limiter to help you to keep your speed in check.