Is Being Driven to School Really a Luxury?

7:15 in the morning, driving down Astoria Boulevard — it seems like everyone is on the road at the same time today. The surround sound speakers in the car are playing music from one of my Spotify playlists. It’s cold outside, but the inside of the car is so warm, I wouldn’t have even realized it if I hadn’t made the five second walk from my front door to the passenger seat just twenty minutes earlier.

The inside of the car is nice — my sister and my mom are the only ones who I have to share the ride with, but what goes on on the road full of cars is what makes the typically short trip a stressful one.

Being driven to school is looked at as a luxury. Every time someone finds out I don’t take the train or bus to school, I get the typical ‘Oh, you’re so lucky’ response. In many ways, I am. I choose when I leave from home, I control the temperature of the vehicle, I can listen to my own music, and I’m generally more comfortable than I would be on a subway car.

However, it’s not as seamless as it sounds because of one dreaded word: traffic.

My morning commute takes about 45 minutes, when in reality, it should only take about 20. For some strange reason that I will never know, people tend to drive more recklessly in the morning. Most people still haven’t woken up yet, and will cause a whole line of cars behind them to miss a green light just because they didn’t realize the light changed.

Then there’s the drivers that don’t seem to remember taking the permit test and passing, because they disobey all laws of traffic — no turn signals, driving past stop signs, and the worst of all, turning from the no-turn lane. The amount of people on the road tops it all, though. Nothing beats hearing my mom repeatedly say, “Everyone and their mother is on the road this morning.”

These may seem like minor occurrences to the people who deal with train delays, rising metro card costs, and cramped buses and trains. However, it’s what causes so much anxiety for the people who decide to drive themselves to work or school every morning.

Because of all these little delays, major traffic is created and major traffic leads to commutes taking longer than they should. I have to leave 20 minutes earlier in the morning than I would in the afternoon because morning traffic makes a usually short commute almost twice as long.

There are also days when the traffic becomes uncontrollable, and the only way out of it is to take the side streets instead— but even the side streets may be backed up by a garbage truck that refuses to move over so other cars can pass.

The worst part is, heavy traffic or a bad accident don’t seem to be good enough excuses for lateness to my first period class. Most of the time, I get a shrug of the shoulders and one strike for something that was completely out of my control. Train delays, however, are always announced, and teachers are requested to “excuse any lateness due to train delays.” Never have I heard an announcement for unexpected excessive traffic on Astoria Boulevard, which is also announced on the news and several radio stations— the same place where train delays are announced. Car traffic just doesn’t seem to be as significant as train traffic.

But that’s okay, I’ll continue leaving 20 minutes earlier, my mom will drive through the side streets, and we’ll try to avoid any sleepy drivers or arrogant garbage trucks— because, in reality, I’m so lucky. My car is warm, my phone can charge in the morning, and I don’t have to deal with any questionable subway smells— beats the traffic, I guess.

– by Katarina Jovic ’17