Experts agree – gasoline prices may fluctuate, but Americans are probably never going to see cheap gasoline again. After subsiding a bit following 2005’s record pump prices, they rebounded heading into summer 2006 and are nosing $3 a gallon in most parts of the country – double the average price at the end of 2003.
Most people feel helpless in the face of these staggering price increases, which mean it can cost $40 or more to fill up your tank if you drive a minivan, and upwards of $70 if you drive an SUV or small truck.
While none of us can do much about the price we pay for a gallon of gasoline, the truth is that – short of drastically reducing how much we drive – there’s plenty we can do about how much we spend filling the tank each month. The key is to improve our gas mileage by changing the way we drive and maintain our vehicles. The good news is that these are some of the same things you can do to be a safer driver!
Avoid Aggressive Driving
One definition of aggressive driving is rapid acceleration and hard braking: jumping like a jack-rabbit from red lights, hot-footing it to pass other vehicles, and then jamming on the brakes to change lanes, stop or take an exit ramp. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), by avoiding this risky kind of driving, you can improve your gas mileage by 5 to 33 percent. The DOE says that’s like paying 11 to 73 cents less per gallon of gas.
In a test last year, two editors from automotive publisher Edmund’s compared fuel consumption results from “lead-foot” driving – accelerating at 75% to 100% of full throttle and hard braking – and from “feather-foot” driving, using only 25% throttle and light braking. This one change produced the most dramatic results of all the methods they tested: an average fuel economy improvement of more than 31 percent. To illustrate “feather-foot” driving, they recommend accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 20 seconds instead of zooming to the same speed in 10 or 15 seconds.
Drive at or Under the Speed Limit
Speeding is one of the leading causes of auto body collisions, highway accidents and fatalities, so it makes sense to drive within the speed limit. But you could also save gasoline and money by taking a more leisurely pace on the highway. The faster you drive the more fuel you use. For example, the Federal Trade Commission says that driving at 65 mph instead of 55 mph increases fuel consumption by 20 percent. Driving at 75 mph instead of 65 mph ups your fuel consumption by another 25 percent. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, every five miles per hour you drive over 60 mph is like spending 15 cents to 51 cents more per gallon of fuel. The flip side is that by staying under 60 mph, you can improve your fuel economy by 7 to 23 percent.
Use Your Cruise Control
Used correctly, your vehicle’s cruise control can be a safety device. First, it can keep you within the speed limit on long highway drives. It can also reduce your fatigue, making you a more alert driver saving you a trip to an auto body shop in PA. Driving at a steady speed also means you accelerate less often to regain a faster speed. In the Edmund’s test, the two drivers achieved an average improvement in fuel economy of about 9 per cent by setting their cruise controls at 70 mph versus cruising at driver-controlled speeds between 65 and 75 mph.
Keep Your Tires Happy
All tires lose air over time, and severely under-inflated tires can cause dangerous blowouts. That’s because today’s tubeless tires rely on air pressure to maintain a taut seal against your wheels.
But under-inflated tires also result in more road friction, which leads to two other problems: faster tread wear and lower gas mileage. Keeping your tires at your car maker’s recommended pressure can improve your fuel economy by 2 to 6 percent.
By implementing some or all of these measures, you can be both a safer driver and a hero to your fleet manager and company.