Sunday, October 07, 2007

Slow down

Southern California has an interesting way of hijacking your visual focus as well as your thought process. Everything is shiny and "pretty" (as in makes a huge effort to be pretty) and "attractive" (as in literally attracts your attention). Huge chrome rims on shiny black SUVs are all the rage as are big sunglasses (on guys and gals) and subwoofers and tattoos. It really is like it looks on TV.

Another thing you might notice about SoCal is a general lazy attitude combined with a need to move quickly. On the freeway, everyone is on their phone driving 85 mph to go somewhere - anywhere, really. Who knows where they are going and who cares to be honest. All I know is they do it fast.

This is probably the worst state to start watching my speed but it is a huge part of getting better gas mileage. When I got to this state over two years ago, I was so happy to be able to drive at 90 in the left lane and never get a sideways glance. I'd sip my americano while flying up I-5 on the way to La Jolla for work. Boy, those miles would just roll by. I've always been conscious of the poor fuel economy but it was one of those things I just let go, like going to the gym but remaining a smoker. I figured, hey, I'm recycling, I drive a 4-banger and I'm going to save the world someday so I'm going to drive quickly.

Well, my cognitive dissonance has caught up to me so I have decided to lower my speed on the freeway. I now do everything in my power not to break 70 mph, which means I'm typically doing less and I'm never aware of doing more (meaning if I look down and see I'm going over, I always slow down). Here is the basic reason why:

Fuel consumption at high speeds

I got the image from here, FYI.

Point being, over 60 mph, your MPG drops significantly. The lesson here is slow down for better gas mileage. In this case, the difference between the 60 and 80 for these cars ranges from 5 to 10. These are smaller cars too; I can imagine in a pickup or and SUV or something with some extra displacement, the difference is going to be large.

Here's what I really think: I really think that a nation-wide conversation about fuel consumption (NOT ECONOMY) must always include a talk about the speed at which people drive. The nation slowing down by 5 MPH on average right now, today, would have an exponentially greater impact on pollution and gasoline usage than an increase on CAFE standards. Does that mean we don't need CAFE standards?? NO, of course not. People driving at 80 in a Suzuki is more efficient than a Dodge Ram. But if you shop for a car based on fuel efficiency and you're still above 70, you're being stupid.

What about a speed control on the freeway? This would certainly be unpopular with, well, everyone but what if you're car simply couldn't go about 70 on all of our highways and byways? Is that an infringement on rights? Do you have a right to break the traffic laws for your own enjoyment or for your lack of planning? Do you think the negatives would outweigh the positives in this case? Is this too extreme? What do YOU think? Be honest...

Meanwhile, you can find me in the right-hand lane, "putting" along at 70, watching S500s cruise past me, and spending just a little bit less.

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