It Bears Repeating - Driving Slower Saves Money
I get incredibly bad mileage when driving. I have an old, clunker car (well, it's not humiliatingly old, but it's old), and when I drive the way I want to drive, I get roughly 18-20 miles to the gallon. In my area, a gallon of gas costs $4.40.
Sigh. I might as well be driving a pickup truck, for all the good it does me.
The problem is, I'm a bitch on wheels. I love speed. I love driving fast, and I adore the way my car kicks it into high gear when I floor it and zoom past all the losers going the speed limit. I love changing lanes and beating the lights. I spent my formative driving years in Manhattan, so I know a thing or two about braking, changing lanes, flipping off the jerk who just cut me off and blaring my horn all at the same time. I relish the feeling of taking off at a newly green light and leaving everyone behind me in the dust.
God, I love driving like a total a**hole.
But being an a**hole is expensive, petrol-wise. I keep reading well-written, thoughtful articles about how I can save money by keeping my tires inflated and my oil changed and thousands of pounds of books on my bookshelves rather than in my car's rather spacious trunk. But even with all that maintenance, the one thing that has kept me at such lousy mileage is my inability to drive with any measure of sanity. I've got a lead foot (I'm told it's genetic), and apparently, that alone was preventing me from saving a good deal of cash.
A while back, our own Lynn wrote a good post about how to save money by driving sanely and maintaining your automobile. She mentioned how sudden stopping and starting are often the culprits of lousy gas mileage on your car. At the time, I read the article and said, "Hey, that's true. I once drove 150 at 30mph and saved a lot of gas!". Of course, driving for 150 miles at 30mph is pretty tedious. And Lynn never advocated driving that far under the speed limit.
So, this past weekend, when I was facing another 150 mile journey (a journey that uses roughly one half of my 16-gallon tank when I drive on A**hole Setting), I decided to try driving at 55 mpg, just like we used to do back in the 1970s, before disco music was enjoyed with a sense of irony.
I drove in the far right lane, because I'm not a total jerk. I stayed behind large semi trucks. I used cruise control rather than the gas and brake pedals to alter my speed, unless I really needed to slow down or speed up fast for some reason. More importantly, I just calmed the hell down. I paid attention to the road, but stole glances at the beautiful scenery. I sang along to my CD player, and purposely played music that would not get my blood pressure up (think Credence Clearwater Revival rather than Dropkick Murphys). I stayed out of everyone's way, and marveled at the massive SUVs (mostly towing trailers packed with offroad bikes or boats) zooming past me at 75 mph. It was like having an out-of-body experience, or having the Ghost of Christmas Driving arrive and show me just how I look when I'm barreling over the mountain highway, racing to the top and back down with other holiday revelers.
I got close to 30 miles to the gallon on that trip, almost as much as I got when I had to drive the same route at 30mph. And the time difference is negligible - it took me roughly 30 minutes longer to get home than if I had been tearing across the pass at breakneck speed. My tank, which usually starts running on fumes at 310 miles, took me to a full 430 miles before the gas light went on.
I tell you, I am a changed woman. No more driving like a maniac for me. I'm now contently puttering along in the slow lane with the old ladies and student drivers, listening to the radio and keeping an eye out for traffic that merges at an unreasonable speed. I no longer take off like a skittish greyhound as soon as the light turns green - I just slowly apply pressure to the gas pedal and make my way into the intersection like a sane human being.
I've even retired my middle finger, which was developing some sort of permanent cramping from overuse. My carpooling partner is beginning to wonder if I've lost it.
Other drivers may be frustrated with my easy riding, but I don't care. Driving like an old woman is going to save me hundred of dollars per year - think of what I could spend that on (don't say 'cat food')! I'm thinking of printing up some bumper stickers that say "If I'm going slow, I'm trying to save gas. Don't hate me because I'm frugiful!", but I'm not sure if it's even worth the effort. I've already noticed a number of fellow drivers practicing the same slow, steady manner of driving that I've been trying, and I think it's catching on.
I'm pretty sure that my blood pressure is lower, too.