Trying To Save Gas Makes People Very Angry.

May 27, 2008

Since the Friday before this long weekend, I did my best to drive as slow as possible. Every time I accelerated from a light, it took forever to get up to the speed limit. Every time I saw a light turn yellow, I immediately took my foot off the gas and started coasting. On the freeway down to Laguna Beach, I drove a solid 65; no more, no less. And what did I get back for it? A lot of honks and a special middle-fingered tribute. Guess not many other people were out trying to make a tank of gas last as long as possible!

Gas here in SoCal is over $4.00 per gallon; in fact, I paid $4.29 on Saturday – spending $42.90 to put 10 gallons of gas in our Subaru. And since our 10 gallons only lasted my wife about 249 miles, good for 24.9 MPG, I wanted to see if the car could do better if we really concentrated on trying to conserve the gas instead of driving like we normally do. I have a heavy foot, I will be the first one to admit it, so this was a very difficult task for me. Barely stepping on the gas when a light turns green? That’s pretty hard to do! It’s such an automatic reaction to try to get someplace as soon as possible at any expense, so this was quite an experiment. Add on the lesson in human nature of being yelled and honked at by people who are in such a hurry, and it made for quite a weekend. One question I kept asking myself is not one I have normally ever presented to myself:

Where in the world are all you people going that you have to drive so fast and so aggressively?

In addition to the gas and the wallet savings, it’s amazing what happens when you take the time to slow down – your heart rate stays level, you don’t get angry at other drivers, you don’t worry about which lane you are in and if it is the right one. You just get on the road, drive sanely, and you still get wherever you are going. And usually, unless it is a trip to the emergency room or to your wedding, a few extra minutes is not going to make a difference at all, except for in your gasoline bill.

So how did we do this weekend by driving the speed limit, avoiding jackrabbit starts, and coasting to red lights and down hills? I am estimating our number to be around 29 MPG – an increase in 4.1 more miles per gallon, or 40-50 miles per 10 gallons of gas. And with gas at $4.29 a gallon, that can save me $8+ each time I fill up. So while other people may get angry at me for being a little more conscious of my driving habits, I will be celebrating keeping a chunk of change in my pocket each month. With gas prices only heading higher, I can only hope more people can try out our experiment. After all, not only will using less gas save you money right away, but it also might start to bring the price of gas back down because of supply and demand.

Have you changed your driving habits to try to squeeze more mileage out of a tank of gas? Have you found that people “salute” you because of it? Maybe it’s just because I live in Los Angeles, but that’s not a very nice way to thank us for trying to conserve gas! ;-)

Photo by Terwilliger911

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Filed in: Automotive

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (19)

  1. I’m right there with you…

    I enjoy driving in between 65-70 in the fast lane (the speed limit)… people ride right up behind me like they’re bulldozers that should magically push cars out of the way…

    When they finally figure out that I’m not going to move over, they change lanes around me and flip me off.

    2 minutes later, when we’re sitting in the same bumper to bumper traffic, I pull up next to them and wave…

    Seriously, people in California drive like idiots and need to take themselves and their lives a little less seriously.

  2. david says:

    Absolutely!

  3. Frugal Dad says:

    It’s not just L.A – I had the pleasure of hitting Atlanta traffic at rush hour last Friday and those people drive like crazy, too. One thing that always amazes me on the interstate is how fast 18-wheelers travel. I was doing about 70mph for a brief time to make it over to an exit lane, and an 18-wheeler actually had time to go around me and back over before I exited. Unbelievable!

  4. Louise says:

    In the last couple of weeks, we’ve driven from Texas to Colorado. I’ve noticed that folks seem to be driving more slowly here and have assumed it is because of fuel prices. We typically stay off the interstates, but even the bit of I-10 we drove was more leisurely.

    I hope you start to see more efficient fuel usage in So Cal, but I suspect that unlike most things, California will NOT lead the nation in this change of habit. Too much hurly-burly there.

    Thanks for linking your site on our blog today; I’m glad to have found TheGoodHuman. I’ll definitely be back.

  5. Joe says:

    It was for this reason, primarily, that the 55 mph limit was instituted during the gas crisis in the 70’s.
    Regardless of speed, while cruising, the car uses about the same amount of fuel.
    But the amount of gas required to change speeds increases exponentially.

  6. david says:

    @ FD – 18 wheelers are sometimes the worst offenders!

    @ Louise – Thanks for stopping by, and glad to have you as a reader. I have been reading your site for a little bit now!

    @ Joe – A car going 90 mph does not use the same amount as a car going 60. Our mileage is way worse going that fast than it is at the speed limit.

  7. Rene says:

    Well we have the oil shark neocons to thank for people’s nasty speeding habits. Once that speed limit was raised all over the country, forget about the majority of people being willing to drive slowly just to save fuel. That’s just so 70s. It just blows me away to see people whining about gas prices, and then fly by us at 80mph. Their loss.

  8. David says:

    You got it Rene – cannot complain if you are doing 80 mph in a full-size SUV!

  9. Matt says:

    A lighter foot, good car maintenance and you can definitely save yourself some money at the pumps. The reality is we’re gas hungry in a society that’s just come to accept low priced gas as the norm and not bothered with proper alternatives. If transit alternatives were better then I wouldn’t be so reliant on my car.

    With all of that said I think a lot of people are going to opt out of their full size SUVs and drive 80 in their subcompacts now. :)

  10. I’m from Laguna Beach, so sorry if I’m the one who gave you the salute. :)

    No, seriously, though I know that stretch of road and have experienced the same thing myself. A couple of years ago, driving slow was akin to a mortal sin, but with gas prices what they are today, we need more saints on the road doing their part to save on the ever precious fuel.

  11. David: Wise Bread (I think) had an article awhile back about falling in line behind slower moving trucks in order to maintain a lower speed without making everyone mad.

    Frugal Dad: It’s almost as if Atlanta driver’s make a game out seeing how close they can come to your bumper before passing, and again when they pull back in front of you. For what it’s worth, when passing through Atlanta you’re always better off going straight through town as opposed to taking I-285 around it — they don’t allow semi-truck through traffic on I-75 and I-85 so there’s a huge number of trucks on I-285.

  12. It’s amazing that people equate “driving at the speed limit”, which, by definition, is the maximum legal speed, with “driving slow”.

    On a recent trip, I drove the interstate at 60 to 65 MPH most of the way. The bump in gas mileage was certainly noticeable, and though I felt like I was being passed by everyone, there was no honking or blatant hostility.

    If there was, the plan was the same as it is when encountering rude drivers when on a bicycle — just smile and wave.

  13. Casey says:

    I don’t have a problem with anyone driving “slow” (or the speed limit as the case may be) but WHY do it in the fast lane while everyone is passing you on the right unless you just are intentionally trying to piss people off? It’s not your job or your right to control how fast other people drive and when you drive slow in the fast lane and force other people to pass you on the right you ARE a traffic hazard. If someone wants to drive slow in the middle or right lane, I’m all for it, but if you block me in the fast lane, I will pull up on your bumper, flash my lights at you, and lean on my horn as I drive past. Because when you do that, you’re intentionally being an asshole.

  14. david says:

    “I will pull up on your bumper, flash my lights at you, and lean on my horn as I drive past” – and that is not a traffic hazard?

  15. holly says:

    I am not to old, I do remember a gas war when gas was .25 a gallon and gas station attendants (what are those??) pumped the gas for you.

  16. SG says:

    It’s funny to read this if you’re from Europe, actually. My car here in Germany makes something like 39 mpg (6 liters per 100 km) if I drive normally. If I take care it might go down to 5 liters per 100 km, that is 47 mpg. And my car is more than 10 years old, if you buy a new one you can get one that uses even less gas and still you’re able to travel with four people (e.g. Toyota Aygo: 4.6 liters per 100 km = 51 mpg).

    But then, gas here costs about €1.50 per liter, which is about $8.80 per gallon…

  17. Tom says:

    California is awful when it comes to traffic. I used to do a lot of business out there and got used to the driving and when I’d come home, I’d drive like I was out there and i’d get every look in the book from other drivers.

  18. David van Veen says:

    Why am I seeing results that are different from everyone else when it comes to driving at a higer speed? I just drove across eastern Washington state and did a little test. I was drive a rental Mecury Sable. With the cruise control on at 55 I got 22.7 mpg per the built in computer. When I stepped it up to 75, my milage went to 23.6. Further, in April I drove from Washington, DC to Charlotte NC in a 2001 Honda Civic. On the way down I averaged ~65 mph and got about 39 mpg. On the way back I averaged over 70 mph and got 41 mpg. When I drive to and from work on the freeway at 60, it get about 32 mpg.

  19. esther says:

    try living in France, if you like to be horned and shoutes at;

    I don’t know how much a gallon is, should be about three liters, no? Here a liter is about 1 euro 50 for one liter… so yes, I drive less, drive slower and start to love my bike!