You probably already car share. At its most basic level car sharing is defined as being when two or more people travel together in a car for all or part of a journey. But, of course, taking the car to go shopping with your partner isn’t all we’re talking about here.
Car sharing usually involves one person as the driver and at least one passenger who pays a contribution to the costs, or alternatively two or more drivers who take it in turns to use their cars.
Car sharing means less pollution, less congestion, less cost and less stress.
The history of car sharing
One of the earliest examples of car sharing was a co-operative in Switzerland that ran from 1948 to 1998 but car sharing really took off in popularity in Europe in the 1980s. Then in the 1990s America, Asia and Australia also picked up on the idea, which is gradually spreading around the world.
Car sharing in France has proved to be a huge success with over one million users and it’s growing in popularity in Britain, where there are dedicated car sharing lanes in some areas that suffer high congestion. In 2008 the M606 near Bradford became the first motorway to have its own car sharing lane.
Why car share?
Car sharing is good for the environment, reduces congestion and saves money.
- Fewer cars mean less pollution with a decrease in CO2 emissions and improved air quality.
- It saves precious fossil fuels.
- You can save money by sharing fuel and parking costs and with the ever-increasing price of fuel that has to be a good thing.
- With fewer cars on the road traffic congestion is reduced making your journey quicker and less stressful.
- Personal safety. If you work at night or in a less reputable area you’ll have a companion to walk to the car with you or company if you break down on a lonely road.
- Company on long journeys.
Who can car share?
Just about anyone who has to travel anywhere. Car sharing provides an obvious benefit for regular commuters but it’s possible to car share on one-off or infrequent trips as well especially if it’s a location or event that is likely to attract a number of visitors, such as a music festival or sporting event.
And you don’t have to have a car to car share. Many drivers will be happy to take a contribution towards their costs – and some drivers prefer not to be passengers.
How do I go about car sharing?
You may already be doing it. Mums have, for years, shared the ‘school run’ with other parents and car sharing works on the same principle: finding others who want to go roughly where you’re going at about the same time.
- You can start informally by asking friends, family or workmates if they’d be interested in sharing lifts.
- Some large organisations run their own car share schemes for the benefit of their employees. Check with your personnel department. If your company doesn’t run such a scheme, ask them why not.
- Join an online car share scheme. There are many to choose from including national and regional ones. Look for one in your region e.g. London Liftshare or Carshare Devon. Consult your local council website for details of approved schemes in your area.
Is car sharing safe?
Car sharing is safe as long as you take the normal precautions:
- If you’re put in touch with a partner through the internet, arrange to meet that person first in a public place. Tell a family member or friend what you are doing and where you will be. Ask to see identification and, if you feel uncomfortable with him or her, don’t car share.
- If you make an informal arrangement with a slight acquaintance who will be driving ask to see his or her driving licence and insurance documents before accepting a lift.
- Don’t get in a car with a driver who is intoxicated.
If you sign up for one of the online car sharing schemes you can request to be put in touch only with members of the same sex.
What about the legalities?
The Association of British Insurers says that car sharing will not affect your policy or premium as long as your vehicle doesn’t seat more than 8 passengers and you’re not doing it for profit. To calculate a fair contribution consult the AA website where you’ll find a running costs table or agree on a recommended mileage rate e.g. your employer’s or the government’s (currently 45p per mile).
If you have any concerns, check first with your own insurer.