Slow Down, Save The Planet

Defensive driving, as we learned from those gory Drivers' Ed movies, saves lives. Turns out, it can also save the world.

Whenever I hear the words "defensive driving" I flash back to ninth-grade Drivers' Ed class. Defensive driving, as we all learned in graphic detail, was the best way to avoid starring in one of those gruesome movies of fatal car wrecks.

But I remembered the phrase again after learning that defensive driving has another upside: It leads to far less CO2 in the atmosphere.

In my ongoing quest to become a better eco-driver, I've discovered that driving recklessly — when you have to drive at all — can reduce fuel economy by as much as 33 percent.

According to the green driving tips from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the main culprits of less-than-green driving habits the following:

  • Speeding on freeways

  • Hard braking (an unfortunate byproduct of speeding)

  • Rapid acceleration (can you say jack rabbit?)

I'm okay when it comes to braking/accelerating. But I can't say the same about speeding. Living in a place with open roads, little traffic, and vast horizons means that driving around 80 mph on the freeways is the norm (until I spot a state trooper, at which point I brake hard.)

But a common rule of thumb is that gas mileage starts to decrease rapidly above 60 mph. As a rule, each five mph over 60 adds 20 cents per gallon to your gas costs.

A little quick math showed me that I'm adding something like $6-$10 bucks to my costs each time I take a day trip. That's a lot for shaving five minutes off my drive time, especially since I have an average car that requires unleaded gas.

Ultimately, I don't know if I'll slow down, though I bet it'll help if I learn to use my cruise control function. And the bottom line is that I'm a cheapskate, not a leadfoot, at heart.

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