Top 5 Advantages of Driving Slower

Published: 07 Sep 2008

Although the price of fuel has gone back down in the United States after peaking earlier this summer, the momentum behind striving for better fuel efficiency continues to grow. No doubt, a lot of the renewed interest in fuel efficiency as well as alternative energy sources like biofuel, wind power and solar energy, also relate to the premature escalation to war in the middle east. I won't debate about the war or the politics behind it, but I will debate about what everyone can and should do to conserve energy.

Perhaps one of the biggest ways that just about everyone can conserve energy and therefore decrease demand for foreign sources of energy (oil), is simply by driving slower. I say slower instead of slow because I think it's easier goal to set when you say you will drive not as fast instead of not driving fast. It's all relative right? Semanics aside, driving slower requires no upfront investment like buying more efficient yet more expensive light bulbs for your home. All that's required is some behavior modification and the discipline make driving slower a habit.

The following are what I think the top five reasons are for driving slower:

  1. You spend less money on fuel. To put this into real numbers, let's say you pay $60 a week to fill up your fuel tank and you have an average commute distance to work of 30 miles. After reading this blog post you've decided to do your part to conserve energy and make a goal of driving 15 mph slower (say from your usual 70 mph to 55 mph) on your daily commute to work. By the way there's an excellent Wikipedia article on fuel economy and I suggest reading it for tips. In this fuel economy analysis report by the EPA, they estimate a 25% maximum fuel reduction. Note that driving conditions, traffic congestion, temperature, type of car you drive, etc. also have an impact on fuel economy. So this figure may be ideal and assumes you also curb your old lead foot habits on the weekends as well. Getting back to the numbers, this means the following: $60 - ($60 x .25) = $15 saved each week, $60 a month, or $720 a year in fuel costs! You may argue that getting to work faster or more likely getting home faster from a hard day at work is more important to you than saving a few bucks. If so, then you should know that under ideal conditions, you would only get home about 7 minutes faster.
  2. You (and your passengers) are less likely to become seriously injured in the event of a crash. This is a bit morbid but let's say hypothetically you crash your car into a large tree. The forces at work here can be calculated from some basic physics formulas, illustrated by this car crash calculator I found. Plugging in the numbers for an average sized car (4,000 lbs) and the difference in driving habits (traveling 55 mph as opposed to 70 mph), here are the results: @70 mph the impact force involved is over 327 tons, @55 mph the force drops to 202 tons. That's almost a 40% difference in the impact force just by driving 15 mph slower!
  3. Less wear and tear on your car. There are thousands of of moving parts in your car and most of them are susceptible to heat and friction generated from how fast they're moving. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that by driving slower you can reduce the wear and tear on your car's moving parts, especially your tires. Next time you're barreling around a corner on the verge of wiping out, think about the amount of pressure (and tread wear) you are putting on your tires. By the way, one of the leading causes of tire failure is improperly inflated tires.
  4. Less stress on you, the driver, and drivers around you. We've all been there. You're happily driving along at a reasonable speed and out of nowhere another driver barrels past you or comes close to hitting you from behind and swerves at the last minute to avoid an accident. Multiply the stress from an incident like this times several million and you get an idea of how much psychological and physical stress is involved on our roads today. This is so commonplace, there's a term for what happens subsequently, "Road Rage". These stresses contribute to other stresses in life and more dramatically, to our overall health care costs and quality of life.
  5. Satisfaction in knowing that you are actively helping to reduce the nation's overall consumption and demand of energy. You can get a good sense of the future energy demand by reading "Annual Energy Outlook 2008 with Projections to 2030" from the Energy Information Administration. In summary, the report basically says that despite new technologies and renewable fuels that are being developed to help curb our energy needs, the official forecast is that the nation will have increases in demand for energy. The current Energy use in the United States is the largest in the world, a majority of which derives from petroleum.