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Poll: America's love affair with cars is skidding

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  • 8/2 Associated Press
    Published Wednesday, August 2, 2006, by the Associated Press Americans love affair with cars is skidding as congestion grows By Stephen Ohlemacher Associated
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5, 2006
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      Published Wednesday, August 2, 2006, by the Associated Press

      Americans' love affair with cars is skidding as congestion grows

      By Stephen Ohlemacher
      Associated Press

      WASHINGTON -- Americans love their automobiles, but not as much as
      they used to. Nearly seven in 10 drivers enjoy getting behind the
      wheel, while the rest think it's a chore. In 1991, nearly eight in
      10 said they liked driving.

      The biggest reasons for dreading the road: traffic and the behavior
      of other drivers. Only 3 percent point to high gas prices.

      "Other drivers get on my nerves," said Steve Heavisides, a 45-year-
      old teacher from Vernon, Conn., who had just returned home from a
      short drive. "There was a women who could have gone right on red and
      she was just sitting there talking on her cell phone. People don't
      pay attention and that gets on your nerves."

      About one in four drivers thinks of his or her car as "something
      special" instead of just a "means of transportation," according to
      a poll <http://pewresearch.org/assets/social/pdf/Cars.pdf> released
      Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. Nearly one in three thinks it
      has "a personality of its own."

      Americans have been loving their cars for about a century, buying
      increasingly bigger, faster and more expensive cars while the rest
      of the world moves toward economy and efficiency. But the new poll
      suggests that driving is becoming more of a burden for many.

      The souring attitudes evolved as many Americans moved farther from
      central cities, generating longer commutes and more congestion. By
      2001, the U.S. had more personal vehicles (204 million) than
      licensed drivers (191 million).

      Urban drivers endured an average of 47 hours of rush hour traffic
      delays in 2003, a threefold increase from two decades earlier.
      The worst problems were in Los Angeles, where the average driver
      suffered almost 100 hours of traffic delays. That's about four
      full days of waiting for the car in front of you to move.

      "I sit there in traffic when it should take half an hour, now it's
      taking an hour and 15 minutes," said Stacy Baglio, 36, who drives
      28 miles to her sales job in northern New Jersey. "People are
      weaving in and out of traffic. There is no common courtesy
      whatsoever."

      Pew conducted the survey of 1,048 drivers from June 20 to July 16.
      It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage
      points. The results were compared with a Gallup poll done in 1991.

      The new poll's results were consistent among drivers of cars,
      pickups and SUVs. There were few regional differences among drivers,
      although northeasterners were more likely than drivers in the rest
      of the country to have "shouted, cursed or made gestures to other
      drivers" in the past year.

      The key to rediscovering automotive bliss: Zen out. Too many people
      think of driving as competition, says Leon James, co-author of the
      book, "Road Rage and Aggressive Driving." Happy drivers think of
      traffic simply as part of the process of getting from one place to
      another, kind of like the process of taking a shower to get clean,
      he said.

      "Americans are nice people," said James, a psychology professor at
      the University of Hawaii. "But there are certain areas that have to
      do with games and competition, where we become less nice to each
      other."

      Jennifer Geisinger seems to have it figured out. The 31-year-old
      Realtor from suburban Minneapolis said she loves to drive her 1999
      Honda CRV.

      "It's something about being in control and getting out on the road,"
      Geisinger said. "I don't have a sports car and I don't speed. But I
      love my car."

      Geisinger also has something in common with 68 percent of all
      drivers: "Oh I sing, of course," she said, adding that her stereo
      plays country, opera and Broadway show tunes.


      Americans and their cars

      Sixty-nine percent of Americans say they enjoy driving their
      automobiles, down from 79% in 1991, according to a poll released
      Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.

      Among other findings from the poll of 1,048 drivers:

      • 68% said they have sung out loud in their cars in the past year.
      • 38% said they had "shouted, cursed or made gestures to other
      drivers" in the past year. Women were just as likely as men to
      admit the practice.
      • 6% said they had fallen asleep while driving in the past year.
      • 7% said a person's car reveals the most about "what someone is
      like," compared with 54% who said a person's home is most
      revealing, and 24% who cited clothing.
      • 31% said their car has a personality of its own.

      Reasons people enjoy driving:

      • 21% said it's relaxing, quiet time or time to be alone.
      • 19% said they enjoy the scenery or "getting away from things."
      • 14% cited freedom and independence.

      Reasons people consider driving a chore:

      • 23% said traffic and congestion.
      • 14% said other drivers, bad drivers or rude drivers.
      • 3% said gas prices.
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