The Trouble With Big Data

Big data is all the rage these days, and it’s certainly something that appears as if it will drive the businesses of tomorrow.

However, it’s also an area of business that is very much in its infancy, and as with any other young technology, it can often be a source of frustration and problems. But what are these issues, and how can they impact your business?

Given that the vast majority of companies these days use web technology to reach and engage with customers, it’s vital that you understand the potential pitfalls of collecting – and using – data. Let’s take a closer look at everything you need to know.

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Privacy

First and foremost, it is essential for your business to look after your customer’s personal details and any other business-sensitive information you hold on a database.

Hacking, malware, and data theft is an all-too-common problem, and although you only hear about the big companies suffering from data breaches on the news, the reality is that small businesses suffer most. It is vital that whether you use a cloud-based online database service or invest in creating your own, security is at the forefront of your mind. Don’t forget, even in a small company, the information held by your database could be available to a lot of different people.

Employees, suppliers, and even customers could have some kind of access, and a clever hacker could – in many cases – find an entry point in any part of the chain.

Communication

On the face of things, the data you collect about your customers can inform you of how to speak and communicate with them. However, the reality of big data is that it just isn’t that simple.

Data only tells you a part of the story, and every metric you see is quantitative rather than qualitative. Ultimately, you have no idea why a particular customer liked a particular ad, or clicked on a particular call to action, only that they did. And it is easy to draw false conclusions about any item of data you have.

The simple truth is that the average business owner just doesn’t know how to sift through the sheer volume of data they are presented with, and it is all too easy to become overwhelmed. The result of that could be sending the wrong messages to the wrong people, and even making poor business decisions based on misreading the information.

People

Continuing on from the previous point, one of the biggest issues with big data is down to the people that use it. As we looked at above, it’s easy to misinterpret data sets dues to our own preconceived ideas. And you can pretty much prove any point you like when there is so much data on the table, regardless of whether it is true or not.

Also, the people accessing the data can be an issue, and you have a choice of two different options, both of which can cause their own problems. First of all, you could take on everything in-house, which means hiring more people and putting others through expensive training courses.

Secondly, it involves outsourcing to a third-party, meaning you have to hand over your sensitive information to people you don’t know. If you go down this route, it’s essential that you choose a reputable, experienced, and open company that you trust implicitly.

Are you a big data lover or hater? Let us know in the comments!

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5 Ways To Improve Yourself In Your Spare Time

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As people, we love to grow. From childhood, to teenager, to adult, we grow physically, but as humans we love to grow personally. We are a species that pushes the boundaries to learn new things about the world, each other and the way things work. The digital age has rushed upon us and we are making new discoveries all the time thanks to the developments in technology and the web. It makes sense that while we are developing and improving everything from the mattresses we sleep on, to the televisions we watch, that we want to add ourselves into the mix.

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The human potential can often feel limitless and when you know how to push your own boundaries, you can really harness and maximise your own personal growth. Improving yourself doesn’t just mean within business, although it’s a good place to start and build your confidence. Your personal wellbeing and relationships matter, too, and if you are spending time working on your own development, you can become a happier, more secure individual. We’ve put together five ways you can use your personal time to work on yourself and make improvements in your self-esteem.

  • Learn More. When you are working hard in your career, you can often forget your overall goals or pathway to the top. Take the time to enrol on an Online RN to BSN Degree Program. Doing this in your spare time literally adds to your brainpower and can help you develop into other future roles. This type of development can work with your confidence and self-esteem, as well as make you satisfied with your daily life at work.
  • Read More. Different from the above point, literature isn’t just about self-help and learning. Devour a book a month and challenge yourself to new genres. Expanding your horizons can open up so many doors into conversations with new people, and reading is diving into the imagination of someone else. Appreciate it and embrace it while you learn what you love.
  • Talk More. You don’t have to be the most confident person on the planet to learn a language, but learning a language can unlock different cultures and appreciations for other civilisations across the globe. Opening your mind to new experiences with languages is important and it’s a great way to build your confidence talking to new people.
  • Paint More. Look around your home and make a list of all the decorating changes you could make. The inspiration you find from the world around you can be implemented into your home and you can make as many changes as you like, as it’s your space. Let your creativity ooze out around you!
  • Sleep More. One of the biggest things that people forget is to sleep enough. We need at least six hours sleep a night to function well, so teach yourself to sleep and feel your mental health improving.

Self-improvement starts with you and your own desire to push yourself to the max and once you start on that train, you never have to get off!

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Turning A Business Dream Into Reality

Many of us will have some form of dream. It might be to travel the world, tick off all those destinations you placed on your bucket list or simply to have a family and grow old with someone you love. It might have been a business idea you had, or even a career change you wanted to make. Many of us go on to live the reality of our dreams, but when it comes to starting a business, some of us are to fearful of the unknown. I wanted to share with you how you can potentially turn a business dream into a reality.

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Start off with a business plan

It is so important to sit down and work on your business plan if you are serious about making this dream possible. It may seem like a pointless task at this stage, but this is your secret weapon when it comes to the later stages of your business launch and the future. You will be able to outline where money will be spent, projections for future sales, and how you plan to launch your business. It can help iron out some of the more difficult hurdles you could face in the future. There are plenty of tutorials online to help you create your business plan from websites like entrepreneur.com however, if you don’t feel comfortable, you can always hire someone to do it for you.

Secure some funding for your business

Funding is a huge part of any business launch, and of course, the upkeep of it moving forward. So it is vital to secure some funding and your business plan can aid you with that. You could choose to find investors who may want a percentage of your business profits. You might also want to look at other options like loans or capital investors like swiftfinancial.com who can advise you on products that might suit your business. If you have the capital, you could invest yourself and use savings or speak with family members. This can often be the point where people seem fearful, but if you have a business plan and are confident, then this shouldn’t be your stumbling block.  

Harness your idea and focus on your unique selling point

Once you have your plan and the funding in place it is simply about fine tuning your idea. This is when you can focus on the brand and distinguish a unique selling point. Perhaps enabling you to outshine any competitors you may have in the industry. Focus on what makes your business model or product different from other options out there on the market.

Have the courage to take a leap of faith

Finally, you may find that the only thing stopping you now from turning your business dream into a reality is you. Don’t let a lack of courage bring you down and take that leap of faith. Doing all the necessary groundwork in advance should help give you the confidence that what you have is a solid business idea. So just go for it.

I hope that this helps you turn your business dream into a reality.

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Introducing The 6 Best Hybrid And Electric Cars Of 2017

We’re fast approaching the end of 2017; a year that’s seen lots of new developments and plenty of new cars in the auto industry. It’s been a year where many manufacturers have made a clear effort to bring out ‘cleaner’ cars. We’ve seen a whole host of hybrid and electric cars from some of the biggest names in this industry.

Today, we separate the best from the rest and look at the top hybrid/electric cars that have been released this year. They’re not in any particular order, but you can bet these are the best ones out there.

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Tesla Model X

If you’re looking for a fast car with a green engine, then the Tesla Model X is right up your street. We love this car for its ingenuity and commitment to being model and fully electric. There’s no hybrid engine in here, just an absolute brute of a battery-powered one. This thing has over 600bhp and goes from 0-60 in under 3 seconds. Those are staggering stats for an electric car that’s far from supercar territory.

The battery is a whopping 100 kWh with a range extending well over 300 miles. As if all this wasn’t enough, it’s a practical car too. This is one of the main reasons it makes it onto this list – it can boast some of the best electric car stats and figures out there, but it still remains a car you can drive everywhere every day. There are seven seats inside (seven!!) which is ridiculous for a car with 0-60 stats like the one mentioned. To make things even better, it looks amazing and is packed full of all the classic Tesla technology. If you’re interested in a full review that looks at all the tech and other features, you can check one out on topgear.com. One final note on this car is that it does have a large price tag. But, for everything you get, it doesn’t actually seem like bad value for money.

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Volvo XC90 T8

The XC90 T8 is a premium car from Swedish manufacturer Volvo. It’s the hybrid version of the highly rated XC90 series, and it has some fantastic features that make it a great hybrid car. Right off the bat, you get a great maximum range on the electric motor – it can go for nearly 30 miles without using any petrol at all. Not only that, but this car has low emissions, and the petrol engine is pretty powerful too

What we like most about this car is the fact it’s highly practical for the whole family. It’s very much a large family car, and it can accommodate up to seven people, with a decent trunk too. All these features come with a sizeable price tag if you buy it new. However, you can see WCVolvo.com for more information on used prices, which will greatly reduce how much this costs. Plus, factor in the savings you make thanks to the hybrid engine, and it definitely makes it worth spending more on this version instead of one of the non-hybrid XC90’s.

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BMW i8

Spoiler alert; this is the first of two BMW entries on this list. Second spoiler alert; this is probably our favorite of the two! As far as electric/hybrid supercars go, nothing comes close to the i8 right now. It’s surprising how no other manufacturer seems to have made anything that can rival the i8 regarding top speed, fun factor, looks, and hybrid efficiency. The closest cars come from Tesla, but they’ll be quick to point out none of their offerings are really ‘supercars.’

What makes the i8 great is that it completely beats down the myth that hybrid cars are boring. It looks amazing, has some of the coolest doors I’ve ever seen, and drives just as well as any other supercar. BMW claims it has the fuel consumption of a compact car, but in a sports car. There are bags of technology in this car too, it really looks like it came directly out of the film iRobot (you know, that one with Will Smith). Obviously, you’ll have to pay a fair fortune for this, but if you’re looking for a green sports car, this is the best option for you.

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Volkswagen Golf GTE

The Volkswagen Golf has long been an iconic compact car. It’s the car of choice for young people all over the world as they pass their driving test and look for something practical, easy to drive, and a little bit sporty. The GTE continues to tick all of these boxes, but it also adds something else to the party; a hybrid engine. Beneath the floor, there’s a lithium battery capable of giving you 31 miles on its own. This battery can charge in just over 3 hours from any power outlet in your home. If you get a proper wall charging unit you can knock an hour off that time.

It’s a very handy car that packs a punch too; 0-60 will happen in just over 7 seconds, which is mad for any hybrid compact car that’s not a Tesla. The CO2 emissions are remarkably low too, coming in at around 35g/km – again, pretty mad. What we have here is a car that will do just about everything you want it to do, in classic Golf fashion. The interior is slick, the design is modern, it’s the perfect car for all occasions. Factor in those low emissions and it could well be one of the best city drivers of the year.

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BMW i3

Here we have the second BMW on our list, and one of the best full-electric cars on the market today. Before we get into things, you have to remind yourself why the i3 was created. It’s specifically made for people that need a small-ish car to drive around a city and not for people that drive across country. With that being said, the full-electric version has a range of up to 124 miles, which will get you to a lot of places when you take short journeys. It’s not a particularly fast car, but that’s not what it’s about. This is a completely green, zero-emission machine, that’s perfect for small families or individuals. If you work in the middle of a busy city that has carbon taxes, this is the perfect mode of transport for you.

It’s a smart car that’s cooler than an actual SMART car, and you have all the BMW benefits to go along with the electric motor. It’s got a load of technology on the inside, including some great safety features. Also, if you’re someone that likes this car but is still put off by the range of the electric-only motor, there is a hybrid option that can help for longer journeys. All in all, an affordable electric beast that’s great for city slicks.

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Audi A3 e-Tron

This makes the fourth car on this list from a German manufacturer as Audi join the hybrid party. They’re a company with a lot of clout, and an eye for executive designs and revolutionary technology. The A3 is a car synonymous with the brand, it offers everything you could want from a mid-sized saloon, and oozes high-quality. What the e-tron does is elevate a great car to new heights. They’ve packed it with a hybrid engine that will provide more than enough range when used in a city. The idea is that you switch to the proper engine whenever you’re making long journeys or need to plug-in your car to charge.

In the auto industry, this isn’t a new idea, but it’s new to Audi. As such, you have to give them props for a fantastic first effort. They’ve ticked all the boxes, and this car comes in at a very affordable price. It fits right into the same price range as other executive saloons, but it’s one of the only ones offering this hybrid tech. Speaking of which, the technology inside is built for the future meaning you have a car that will last a long time and prove a good investment. Fancy learning more about this car? Then check out this article on forbes.com for more information about its best features.

The Future…

There you have it; our pick of the best hybrid and electric cars this year. While all these vehicles are fantastic, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds. Are we going to see even more electric/hybrid cars next year? 2018 will surely be the year more manufacturers attempt the full-electric car, which is currently only on offer from a handful of companies. There were recent reports that Porsche is looking to become one of the first major Tesla rivals, so that will be exciting too.

My only worry is that there’s a lot of hype surrounding autonomous cars right now, so maybe some manufacturers are thinking of setting aside electric/hybrid ideas? Hopefully not, and we will see some great designs and revolutionary ‘green’ cars next year and beyond.

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A Guide To Creating The Perfect Bucket List

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Have you made your bucket list? The process is simple. Basically, it is a list of everything you want to do before you die. Sounds a little morbid, we know, but as we only have one life to live, the bucket list is a great tool to inspire us to live this life to the fullest. One of the most famous examples is this bucket list created by John Goddard. Sadly, he is no longer with us, but he checked off 109 of his 127 goals. Truly incredible. So what about you?

We can’t tell you what to put on your list. It is entirely dependant on your tastes and lifestyle, so you need to take the time and brainstorm, writing down your ideas on a piece of paper or your computer. Admittedly, it’s difficult to know where to start, so consider the following headings.

New experiences – is there anything you have never done before, but would really like to? This may be playing a particular instrument, taking part in a daredevil activity, or driving a fancy sports car around a race track.

Travel – is there anywhere in the world you would like to visit? From sailing the British Virgin Islands to exploring the Australian outback, think about the places you are desperate to see.

Relationships – for many people, getting married often rates highly on a bucket list, as does having a family and making new friends.

Career – we spend most of our time at work, but this can still feature highly on your list. You may want to progress up the career ladder, make more money, or even change your job and work somewhere that has more meaning to you.

Physical endurance – most of us resolve to spend more time keeping fit at the start of the new year, but your list should be more adventurous. You might want to climb a mountain or take part in a marathon, pushing your endurance to the limits.

Don’t be limited to our examples. As we said, you may have ideas of your own, whether they are big or small in scope. However, making the list is the easy part. Many people’s bucket lists go unfulfilled, for one very simple reason. They aren’t achievable. Items such as ‘going to the moon’ or ‘become a famous movie star’ are possible, but not within most people’s reach. You need to make a list of items you intend to do, rather than a fanciful wish list which is mainly fantasy.  Consider the following:

Be realistic – think big by all means, but choose things you actually intend to do, and not a list of daydreams.

Don’t be vague – writing down items such as ‘getting healthier’ is okay, but it is rather vague. Be specific, and include items of relevance, such as exercise ideas or particular foods you want to try.

List your passions – don’t write down anything because you think you ‘should,’ such as reading every play by Shakespeare or watching the entire directorial works of Ingmar Bergman. You want to be excited by the things on your list, and not be put off from doing them.

Don’t worry if your list changes over time. You can add or take away from it as appropriate. Your life will change, which may mean you won’t be able to do certain things, or you may replace items according to your lifestyle as you get older. It doesn’t matter. The key is ensuring you get to achieve as much as you can over your lifetime, living a life where you can be proud to say “I did that” and be glad about it. The rest of your life begins here. What do you want to do? We wish you every success and happiness.

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Customer Retention: Why Loyalty Counts For Your Business

Finding new customers is tough.

In fact, it’s one of the most difficult aspects of being in business. Given that you need to sell products or services to ensure your business is successful, all business owners are well aware of the need to appeal to new customers to help keep the balance book looking good. The ability to appeal to new customers is the driving force behind so much business advice– until now.

Instead of talking about yet another method that will allow you to drive new customers to your company, let’s instead focus on the customers that you already have. The customers who have made a purchase; who already know you exist, and are hopefully well aware of what your company can offer to them. It’s these customers that you should be focusing on, at least as much as you are thinking of attracting brand new ones.

Why Is Customer Retention So Important?

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To put it simply: because there is a finite source of new customers. There is a point at which your company will have captured all the customers it is realistically going to. The smaller your business is, the more important that customer retention is, especially if your business is particularly niche. There is a point at which everyone who wants to use your business will have– so customer retention is vitally important.

A business cannot survive on new customers who shop once and then never return. That strategy might provide the occasional funding boost as new customers flock in as the result of an advertising campaign, but it’s not sustainable. Returning customers, those who are loyal to you, are worth their weight in gold.

Is It Possible To Control How Often A Customer Returns?

You can’t exactly hack into the minds of your customers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drop hints. Changes to business technology and usage of social media give you an opportunity to constantly be nudging customers in the right direction.

One of the most effective ways of ensuring a customer will come back for more is to offer them a discount code. Send through a small card with their first order, which entitles them to between 10-20 percent off the next time they shop. The code should expire within two weeks of being issued. Everyone loves a bargain, so this will encourage them to come back sooner rather than later. Setting a time limit on sales and deals is always a good way to encourage customers to return.

How Can You Keep Your Business Fresh In Customer’s Minds?

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Social media is the best way of ensuring customers never have the chance to forget that your business exists. Offer incentives for ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ for your business pages; most companies offer a 5 percent discount code as standard. This is well worth it, as you’re then able to use social media to encourage your customers to come back. Yes, some might get the code and then block/unfollow you, but the majority won’t– meaning you can insert your company into their general social media usage.

Why Do Some Customers Shop Once, Then Never Again?

There’s no doubt that it’s frustrating when you have a one-time-only customer. You’ve likely incurred some expense to draw them to a purchase; lead generation, advertising, marketing etcetera. It’s nice that all of that worked and brought a customer to your site, but a one-off purchase doesn’t quite return your investment.

If you find single purchases are happening often, then you’re going to need to investigate why. Asking your customers is the single best way to achieve this. Look for customer satisfaction survey software, create a few questions pertinent to your business, and then ask all customers to complete it. Of course, some won’t; some people aren’t interested in giving feedback and simply will refuse to participate. That’s okay, because others will participate, especially if they’re incentivized to do so.

You need to go through the results of this survey and see if there are any common, negative themes. Maybe your site is too slow or the order process was too fiddly; if you see the same criticism in numerous pieces of feedback, then this is an area you need to improve. It’s these small problems which might make customers reluctant to return, so fixing them is a priority.

Of course, some customers may shop with you just once, and the reason they haven’t returned is nothing to do with your business at all. Customers might have been buying a gift or needed a product for a single purpose that they otherwise don’t require. So don’t assume all one-time-only customers are a bad sign for your business; sometimes, it’s just circumstance. There’s relatively little you can do to draw these customers back, so don’t lose too much sleep over them.

How Can Former Customers Be Enticed Back?

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So what about the other type of one-time-only customers; the ones who fall into the gaps? What about customers who do have reason to continue shopping with you, but elect not to do so– and don’t explain why on a feedback form?

There’s relatively little you can do to retain these customers. The issue might be that they just didn’t like what they bought, or they have found a competitor that they prefer. Harsh truths, but ones you have to follow.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you just have to accept they’re gone forever. Market direct to them, even consider outright calling customers to tell them about an exciting new offer. Any technique that can create a buzz around your business is beneficial; this strategy might just be enough to bring back those customers you had once presumed lost.

Understanding how customer retention is key to your business is vital. Shiny new customers are all well and good, but in the long run, it’s the loyal returners who will do the most for the health of your business. With your mind focused in their direction, you can be confident that your business is able to flourish, thanks to the loyal support of the customers who already know and love your company.

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Is Driving Even Worth It?

The majority of kids go through their life desperate to get to the driving age. To them it screams freedom, and to be honest, nothing does give more freedom than being able to drive yourself around. No more relying on parents for a lift, or even worse, public transport. There’s nothing better than that first drive on your own, picking up your friends, and just driving round for hours. Now, whilst to some people this is the dream, others put off driving for a few years, and they have good reason to. Whilst there are many highs, there are also many lows. This article is going to explore a few of them.

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Pros

The obvious main positive of driving is the freedom it gives you. You’ll have spent your whole life relying on lifts, various methods of public transport, or walking. As soon as you get your first car you’re free to drive wherever you wish. You’ll be able to visit different parts of the country you never had before, and pretty much gain complete independence. In the beginning, it’s all about road trips and driving round with friends. But as time goes on, you’ll realise how easy simply popping to the shop for a snack is compared to when you didn’t drive.

Another positive is the job opportunities it’ll open up for you. More companies nowadays ask whether you’re able to drive as you’re more appealing to them if you have your own method of transport. There’s less risk of you being late to work with driving, compared to if you were catching a bus or train. It also means you can travel a bit further afield for a better job opportunity if needed. There are also so many job opportunities out there that require you to drive. E.g. delivery driver, carer, chauffeur etc.

You also become a really good helping hand for the people who have carried you through your entire life, namely your parents. They’ve given countless lifts over their time, it’s nice to be able to offer one back in their time of need. You can run errands for them when they don’t have the time, and generally make life a bit easier for them.

The technology being developed towards cars is also incredible. There are now self driving cars being manufactured to improve all round safety. This includes features such as automatic breaking when the car senses you need to e.g. if a car is harshly breaking in front of you. Within the next 50 years, it is predicted nearly all cars will be driverless, and will be a lot safer than if a human was in front of the wheel. Yes, you have to purchase an extremely expensive car to have this technology. But the safety features in cheaper cars is also improving. So if you are ever in a car accident, you’re less likely to gain life threatening injuries.

Cons

The main con is the sheer expense of driving. Firstly, you have the cost of a car. Most people choose to go for a cheap but cheerful one to begin with. This is fine, but then comes the old age issues that will inevitably creep up. Other people prefer to go for a flashy new car. This will either be an outright payment of thousands of dollars, or it’ll be finance. Financing a car is a whole new issue. You’ll have the complete cost of the car, plus a hell of a lot of interest. If you can’t afford your monthly repayments it’ll enter you into a whole new world of trouble. Effectively putting yourself into debt from a young age by financing a car is risky, but so many young people choose to do it. Then there’s the rocketing prices of insurance. For any young driver, insurance prices will be through the roof. If at any point they have an accident, they’ll go to nearly impossible to afford. Prices only really start dropping after the age of around 24-25, and as long as the no claim bonuses have built up. Add on the prices of taxing a car, and driving really is just one big expense that sometimes just isn’t worth it.

Driving is so dangerous. It is the most dangerous method of transport in the world, claiming around 40,000 lives per year. If the accident is not fatal, you’re more than likely to either be injured or very seriously injured during a collision. At some point in every drivers life, they’re bound to have an accident at some point no matter how small it is. Most of the time, accidents are down to careless driving from another vehicle. But it is sometimes very hard to prove this. It’ll be down to a car accident lawyer to help the non guilty driver through a court case. If the accident was your fault, you’ll have to live with the physical damage, and the mental damage if you’ve injured someone else. Drink and drug driving has also been on the rise as of late, further increasing the risk of an accident.

The general annoyance that driving can bring is another con. Getting stuck in traffic being one of them. Highways are the worst for big pile ups, meaning delays of likely 30 minutes or more per journey. Streets can be just as bad during rush hour. This can create a lot of issues, especially if you’re travelling to work or an important event. Then there’s the issue of breakdowns. Most of the time, your car will decide that an hour into a three-hour journey is the perfect time to break down. You’ll rarely be lucky enough to have your car break down from the comfort of your drive. Having to wait for a tow truck to arrive, and paying the large fees for the tow, and the repair is annoying.

So driving seems to be just a necessary evil for the most part. It might give you all the freedom you need, but it definitely does cause a few to many issues.

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