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published July 2011

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Herald Journal Publishing
PO Box 129
Winsted, MN 55395
(320) 485-2535

Commuting driving you crazy?

By Starrla Cray, Staff Writer

“Oh yeah, there’s stress with it,” Howard Lake resident Neal Glessing said, referring to his job as a truck driver.

“I average 12 to 13 hours a day, and I’m in rush hour traffic in the Cities nearly every day,” he said.

Glessing doesn’t mind working hard, though.

“I was a dairy farmer for 30 years before I got into this job,” he said, explaining that he wasn’t able to farm after being in an accident.

Compared to farming, driving for a living has its perks.

“I usually have Saturdays and Sundays off,” Glessing said, joking that when he first started, it was like he’d died and gone to heaven.

Safety on the road is one of Glessing’s top concerns.

“With a truck, I don’t have the luxury of stopping on a dime,” he said. “You have to be very alert.”

Glessing hauls 40- and 53-foot rail connectors throughout the western half of the state, and into the Twin Cities.

“In the Cities, there’s no extra room for turning. Every inch counts,” he said. “It gets a little nerve-wracking sometimes.”

In order to manage stress while driving, Glessing plans his routes, avoiding difficult roads whenever possible.

“I’m willing to put a mile or two extra on to avoid a tight turn,” he said.

Most people Glessing sees driving are respectful, but he said “there are a few bad apples who create a lot of havoc.”

“My biggest beef is with people who text while they drive,” he said. “That’s very dangerous. They’re not watching what they’re doing.”

Glessing also sees drivers who change lanes without signaling, and those who don’t turn their lights on when it’s foggy outside.

“A lot of people pass you and dodge in and out of lanes,” he added. “Then, at the next stop light, they’re two cars ahead of you. You think of all the chances they took with everyone else’s lives.”

Glessing takes his work seriously, because he knows what can happen if people aren’t careful.

“It’s like driving a loaded gun down the freeway,” he said. “An accident changes people’s lives forever. There’s no way of changing it back once it’s happened.”

When he sees someone driving recklessly, Glessing said he often prays that the Lord will keep that person safe.

“You see a lot of crazy things,” he said.

Glessing consciously makes every effort to be aware of what’s going on around him while driving.

“I don’t want to hurt somebody or kill somebody,” he said. “I never worry about myself; I’m always concerned about the other people around me.”

Planning ahead

Hal Kimball of Cokato also knows what it’s like to spend several hours on the road.

“What helps me keep my sanity is that I know the back roads and shortcuts,” said Kimball, who does sales and installation for Comcast cable company.

On an average day, Kimball drives about three hours, mostly in the west metro area.

Planning ahead is one way Kimball stays relaxed throughout the day.

“I avoid traffic,” he said. “I have flexible hours, so I leave after the morning rush. Every morning, I turn on the TV and listen for local news and traffic.”

While on the road, he has the radio on to hear about accidents and road closings.

“I know two or three ways to get to most places,” Kimball said. “If a road is blocked, I hop on a side road.”

Kimball got used to city driving by helping with his parents’ janitorial company as a teenager.

Even for people who know their way around, driving in ice and snow can be a struggle, however.

One day this past winter, Kimball remembers it taking an hour to get to Montrose from Cokato. After seeing several cars in the ditch, he ended up turning around and going back home.

In addition to stress and the possibility of accidents, driving can cause other health issues, such as back pain and stiffness.

A few ideas that might decrease discomfort include adding a cushion to the seat, maintaining a good posture, stretching before and after driving, or adjusting the seat position.

Another twist to healthful driving is a new heart rate monitoring seat, which Ford Motor Company announced in May. The seat is still in its development stages, but could potentially help people with chronic illnesses or medical disorders manage their condition on the go.

Because drivers spend long periods of time sitting in a calm position, the car is an ideal place to measure heart activity, according to a company press release.

Commute times

According to a US Census Bureau five-year American Community Survey (ACS), the average commute time in Minnesota is 22.2 minutes.

The data for the study was based on a rolling annual sample survey mailed to about 3 million addresses between Jan. 1, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2009.

The estimates represent the average characteristics between that five-year period, not a single point in time. Reports for other cities can be found at

In the US, the average one-way travel time to work is 25.2 minutes. According to a June 2011 article in Minnesota Economic Trends magazine, 25.2 minutes translates to an average annual commute of 9.1 days.

Here are the mean commute time estimates (in minutes) for local cities, as reported by the US Census Bureau’s five-year ACS.

• Cokato – 19.1

• Howard Lake – 23.4

• Winsted – 24.2

• Loretto – 25.2

• Dassel – 25.3

• Delano – 25.4

• Lester Prairie – 26.7

• Mayer – 29.8

• Watertown – 30.1

• Montrose – 34.7

• Waverly – 39

• New Germany – 40.6

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