It's fine to make choices for yourself and to accept some risk in your life, but when you are behind the wheel you are making that choice to increase the risk for everyone around you too. You have a responsibility to drive carefully.
Please don't make the roads any more unsafe by doing activities or encouraging others to do activities while driving that may distract them from the task of driving safely.
Find other ways to reclaim your commute such as moving closer to work, working from home on some days or using public transport. Or perhaps stop thinking of your commute as lost time, but time that is spent to enable you to live somewhere pleasant/quiet/cheap while working somewhere that meets the needs of your business/work.
Listening to audio books or presentations I believe is good. Dictation is probably a fine activity. As soon as your hands start getting involved or you start to look away from the road I believe that safety starts to suffer.
Does anyone have any quantitative data on how common driving activities affect safety?
I don't believe in making the most of my commute time. I believe in doing whatever is necessary to make the commute time as low as possible.
If commute time bothers you, move closer to work, or work closer to home. Use the extra time to blog.
Personally, I'd never work somewhere I couldn't bike to. Its significantly more fun than driving, and I never sit in traffic.
Due to the geography of where I am, there's no direct train or bus, and they take me longer than the bike. I do take the train in winter, to avoid commuting in the dark (again this is rural, so by dark I mean DARK)
Right now I ride 3.5 miles to work, and, when it's not snowing, usually 15-30 miles after work.
I wouldn't mind 15 miles each way, but I'm not sure I'd do it in snow.
Of bigger concern is being run over by multi-taskers.
Just to expand on my first comment: I live in the Netherlands. People here bike everywhere. They wouldn't do that if they got sweaty and had to take a shower every time they arrived somewhere.
However, I'm as annoyed with distracted driving as ou. I play a small game when driving.. Spot the person on the phone, watch the person next to you at the light and can tell with the head nod to lap that they are texting, especially If under 30. Sorry for the stereotype.
We need some legal paintball guns so we can use on the freeway to tag offenders so those of us that are driving can know where the risks are... And it would be a chance to practice my aim. If more than a few hundred tags, we can then switch to harpoons and the cars will start to look like porcupines.
I certainly wouldn't want to dictate posts during local traffic driving, but if I'm driving on the 280 it's 45 minutes of uneventful constant-speed highway driving.
Take the bus if it's accessible to you, load up on some books, and you will love your commute.
If you have a manual transmission, It's almost mandatory - take a look at large trucks in stop-and-go traffic, they attempt to "idle through" because stopping and restarting a heavy vehicle is fuel-inefficient.
I'm talking about those who leave 25 car lengths ahead of them when traffic is moving so they can text or blog or do whatever is taking their attention off their driving.
How much space they think they need depends on how frequently they decide to look at the road.
It's gotten to the point where I refuse to drive anything but a performance car because the kind of shit you have to deal with as a person who actually FOLLOWS the rules requires the ability to accelerate, brake, and handle better than all the idiots on the road who are totally distracted, don't signal or stay in the lanes, and drive 40mph on the fucking highway.
The only way to reclaim your commute is to not commute.