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My way is Waze . I resisted the popular navigation app at first. Then, after downloading it, I used it mainly for longer road trips. I figured I usually knew where I was going, so why add a layer of prep time by inputting addresses I already knew? I’d fussed with and been frustrated by system after system in the cars I drove. Now I have it on for nearly every car trip I take. In a world of construction, trippy weather, and bad drivers, Waze gives me an instant head’s up. The app “partner[s] with cities, transportation authorities, broadcasters, businesses, and first responders” to deliver current road conditions. And just as importantly, its users are feeding information to the system in real-time. 

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Waze has over 140 million users worldwide. While the company doesn’t disclose how many of those users are Canadian, when you have the app on, you can see other users indicated on your screen. The closer to a major urban centre you are, or when you’re on major highways, the more Wazers you see all over. Head to more rural routes, and users — like traffic — thins out. What doesn’t go away is warnings of upcoming conditions.

The company did a year-end snapshot of what we think of the time we spend behind the wheel. Some reactions were predictable: 71 per cent of us prefer being the driver, 22 per cent would rather be the upfront passenger, and just 1 per cent want any seat in the back. 

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More revealing is how we actually feel about driving. Does driving make us happy? For the most part, nope. Atlantic Canada reports 34 per cent of those living there consider themselves happy behind the wheel, followed by Central Canada at 26 per cent, 24 per cent of the Prairies, and 23 per cent on the west coast. This no doubt reflects growing irritation with congestion, especially when those polled in Canada’s North go all in: 100 per cent described themselves as happy. Worldwide, 60 per cent of drivers are happy, so Canada (outside of the north) isn’t winning this one. 

When you’re self-reporting on an anonymous poll, you sometimes offer up information you might otherwise censor. Waze asked their users if they’re backseat drivers, and 6 per cent admitted they “very much so” were, and 32 per cent admitted to being somewhat bossyboots. 62 per cent said they weren’t at all.

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Most of the things drivers admit doing behind the wheel are predictable: 45 per cent sing out loud, 31 per cent sped up to make a light, 28 per cent swore or shouted at another driver, and (my favourite), 25 per cent of us admitted to turning down the music to help us see. Less good? 11 per cent admit to sending a text or email while driving, and 32 per cent let their gas tanks get close to empty. This is bad practice and could cost you a fuel pump! If you get stuck in winter, you could freeze! Don’t do this!

let waze offer a little seasonal levity to your drive

Santa on Waze Photo by Waze

Speaking of winter, our ever-shifting climate is another good reason to have a navigational assist in place, along with all the other recommended safety items. You can see at a glance when you’ll arrive and can let those on the other end know when to expect you. Waze posts the speed limit (and usually warns of police presence) so a missed sign doesn’t have to end in a surprise ticket. As the app has gained traction, corporate ads have come along too. They only pop up for a moment, and if you’re looking for a place to stop, they can be helpful. I’ll take them as the cost of having this service be free to drivers. 

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COVID has shifted not just the traffic on our roads as many continue to work from home, but also why we’re on them in the first place. 70 per cent of Canadians used their car this year to go shopping, 48 per cent drove to visit family, and just 36 per cent were commuting. 17 per cent were avoiding public transit, and 35 per cent just needed to get out of the house. Perhaps the most pointed sign of the times? Just 16 per cent of users were driving for a holiday or vacation, and 41 per cent have no intention of travelling during the upcoming holiday season.

Are we horn happy? Only 19 per cent copped to leaning on their horn when the car ahead didn’t move fast enough. 52 per cent said they wait patiently, while 28 per cent had no preference. Apparently, the Brits are the most patient — 60 per cent, while Americans are the most likely to signal their desire to get things moving along. Among the Canucks, it was the North that weighed in as super patient: 100 per cent reported not using the horn. Either only one dude reported from the North and he’s super happy and calm, or we need to take a lesson from our northern neighbours. Over 30 per cent of Canadians said they’d give up alcohol to have no traffic — except for our northern friend, who only offered to give up chocolate. 

Waze is home for the holidays. They’ve posted Santa playlists here   and here , and you can even add a fun Santa avatar, voice, and sleigh to your drive directions. Go to your Waze settings, and click through My Waze to set it up. It’s cute.

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