In light of a recent post of mine here about a campaign to lower the speed limit to 55 miles per hour, I saw a weekend getaway as a chance to test the impact of speed-limit driving on fuel economy.
Going from St. Louis to Chicago, then up past Milwaukee before backtracking that route home, my wife and I drove our 2008 Honda Civic, a 5-speed which is rated to get 36 miles per gallon on the highway and 25 mpg in the city (29 mpg combined).
On three gas stops, our mileage figured to 40.25, 39.29 and 39.48 mpg.
That included city driving, traffic stoppages, and miles and miles of construction slow-downs and more stoppages.
Could it be that driving the speed limits, usually 55- and 65-mph on the highways and interstates we used, gave us that boost to get from 36 to 40 miles per gallon?
As I wrote about in that earlier “Driving 55” post, Internet-based responses to the media’s announcement of, and the drive55.org campaign push for, a federally-mandated decrease in speed limit has been rather heated, outright vicious, hateful, profanity-filled and, at times, violent in nature.
Value of a Relaxing Drive
I enjoyed the drive this weekend. For years I’ve been one of those people who figured driving should be done as fast as I can get away with. If the limit is 55, go 68. If it’s 70, go 80. Or whatever.
But driving that way is such a tension-filled experience.
Every car you come up behind is going too slow, you think. Every car coming up behind you seems to be begging for a race and/or is getting in the way of lane changes and passing.
Everyone is an enemy, you figure, because all that matters is that ever-pressing instant of NOW…go go go go go go. For what? What’s gained?
And, being a speed-racer, you’ve got to keep eyes out for law enforcement at all times.
It’s all tension and aggravation. And it’s unnecessary.
Driving this weekend’s trip at the speed limit was relaxing and in-control. Easy reaction times. No one in my way. Cops weren’t worth a second glimpse. My time was still well-spent, listening to music, talking with my wife, eating at restaurants, seeing some countryside and cityside.
Oh, and did I mention, we got 40 miles per gallon? Short of a hybrid, there’s nothing mass-produced that is better on the road right now.
Doing What is In Our Best Interests
As we saw motorcyclist after motorcyclist in Illinois riding sans helmet (in Missouri, helmets are required), I got to thinking about a particular comment I read at another media site online last week.
This person questioned why he, she, or anyone should have to have a law pushing all drivers down to 55 mph. Couldn’t anyone who wanted to drive 55 mph just go ahead and do it now — and get out of his, her and everyone’s way who wants to go 70, 80 or whatever miles per hour?
And it seems that, technically, the answer is “Yes, people can make sensible choices of their own volition without government mandate.”
After all, my wife and I just showed, as I’ve been discussing in this blog post, that people can in fact set cruise control on 55 mph and still get to their destination.
But how many people do hold back, even though it’s safer and, seemingly, more economical?
If motorcyclists know that death is almost certain in the event of a wreck on the highway, then why don’t they take that safety measure of wearing a helmet? It’s in their control, 100 percent. They don’t bother to do it, that simple thing that is decidedly in their own best interests.
We all have vices and do things we know are not in our interests. Smokers smoke. Drinkers get drunk — and some of them drive. We eat unhealthy foods in unhealthy quantities and clog our arteries and hearts.
It’s what we do. That’s our comfortable, convenient life in America.
So, maybe, since healthy choices seem often to be an ill-fitted, if not oxymoronic, idea in the typical American’s lifestyle, just maybe it is reasonable to think a law could be useful in this Drive 55 campaign.
Maybe every now and then we all need some governance. If I don’t need that law for myself, since I am capable and willing to chill out in the driver’s seat, then what I could use is that law to make the many angry, self-absorbed, speeding drivers around me slow down and cool out.
If I drive more responsibly and carefully, it affects you positively. Therefore, if a law makes me drive 55 mph, it’s in your interest.
Maybe more even-tempered driving is not for fuel economy, gas savings, or oil wars. At least not just those reasons.
There’s more to it than that. Maybe it’s about mental and emotional health, community interaction and general attitudes. Maybe if I act in a way that is mindful of you, and you drive in a way that is mindful of me, then we all win, we all score one for the team’s interests?
Ah, yes. Kumbaya.
But if you’re not into that, I would like to mention, in case you hadn’t heard: While driving the speed limit this weekend, my wife and I got 40 miles per gallon.
It created more than a 10 percent savings on fuel and gas money. Cool, huh?
Image source: drive55.org