Sustainability Challenge: I can’t drive 75!

03 Apr 2009|Dave Decelle

When my first child was born I decided to adopt safer driving habits. I had 3 easy rules to follow:

• No more than 10% over the speed limit (so 72 mph in a 65 zone).

• At least 1 car length per 10mph of speed between me and the car in front.

• Let jerks be jerks (i.e. no more aggressive driving just for the satisfaction of keeping that tailgater behind me from passing me, from now on just put lots of room between us and let him pass, so what!).

I quickly discovered that my commute to work was way more relaxed and stress-free. When everyone else around you is driving 75-80 mph, you can just cruise along in the right lane without having to figure out your next 5 moves to pass that guy in front of you, and you don’t put yourself in a position to be cut off and pissed off.

By the time gas prices soared to $4 per gallon in 2008, I was already used to being the slowest guy on the road, so I figured I’d slow down even more to save on gas. So I adjusted my first rule from “driving no more than 10% over the speed limit” to “driving the speed limit.” At the same time, I started recording my miles and gallons at the pump to figure out my average MPG.

For the first 2 weeks I still drove 10% over the speed limit and had an average of 31 MPG (I drive a 4 door Honda Civic and it’s almost all highway driving). For the next 2 weeks I drove the speed limit and had an average of 37 MPG.

That’s a 20% savings with only a 10% speed reduction! So I cut my car’s carbon footprint by 20%! (Well, if you only count the gas burned by the car.)

Sure, I have to leave about 6 minutes earlier than when I used to drive faster. But that gives me 6 more minutes for relaxation and reflection each morning and evening, since I can just cruise untroubled in the right lane.

I first started driving as a teen not long after the gas crisis of the late 70s, when highway speed limits were 55 mph. Heck, I could slow down even more. Couldn’t we all? Why hasn’t anyone thought to re-instate the 55 mph limit on our highways? I can only imagine how much that would reduce carbon emissions. It’s a simple, easy step on this very long journey we are on.

You know, now that I’m writing this, I think I’ll try another experiment and for the next 2 weeks I’ll drive 55. Let’s see if I can get up to 44 MPG (without being rear-ended).

Save the planet, save yourself — how fast do you drive and what’s your commute stress level?

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