Sharing a ride sounds like a great way to cut down on commuting costs, and it is. It makes sense if several people can ride together. As a bonus, it helps reduce carbon emissions. But despite the common good, there can be difficulties when commuters, perhaps people who do not know one another, share the ride.
The best way to avoid carpool problems from cropping up is to establish clear rules ahead of time.
Share expenses. When riders share the duty of providing the ride, sharing expenses may not be necessary. But if one person is providing the ride, the others should be prepared to chip in equitably for gas and even for wear and tear on the vehicle.
Set riding rules. By establishing clear standards before you begin carpooling you avoid disagreements in the car. Four items in particular stand out.
1. The radio, Will it be on and what will you listen to: music, talk radio, sports radio? If different drivers provide the ride, is it the driver’s prerogative to choose, or does the group decide as a whole what, if anything, to listen to?
2. Are cell phone calls acceptable?
3. Should the windows be up or down?
4. What, if any, food or drinks may be consumed in the car?
Keep the rules the same for each car. Once you’ve established rules, keep them the same, even if different riders drive each day. It’s too confusing to try to remember what rule applies to which car.
Share contact information. There are sure to be times when a rider is sick or a car breaks down or won’t start. It’s best to share your contact information so everyone can be aware of a problem and can make an alternate plan.
Establish a wait time. Just how long will you wait for a person to show up before leaving him or her behind? Five minutes is a reasonable time to wait. Of course the easiest way to avoid this problem is to use the contact information to check in on the latecomer.
No errands. It’s tempting to ask to stop for a minute at the grocery or to do a quick pick up at the dry cleaner. As tempting as it is, avoid it. Others are not going to want to wait for you. And, while one errand might seem insignificant, if each person started asking for a quick stop, the ride home could easily become a long journey. Do your errands on your own time.
Another cardinal rule: Remember to leave the car as clean, or cleaner, than it was when you got in it.
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Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.