By Barbara Kessler
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Seemed like a trifling issue not long ago, but it’s time – probably about $2 per gallon past time — to look at our driving habits. Obviously, we should drive less. And given the current price of a gallon gasoline ($3.75 to $4) our wallets and the environment are surely in accord on that. You’re probably already shopping closer to home and bundling errands. Short of buying a new more fuel efficient car, you’re now left with one other option: Change how you drive to curb your car’s appetite. Some tips:

  • Quit Idling and Follow the One-Minute Rule. If you are waiting in a car line at school, the bank, the dry cleaners or for a fast food fix, and you’re going to be there for more than one minute, turn the car OFF. Yes, it takes gasoline to start the car, but experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists say that you’ll be running in the red after one minute of idling. Others confirm this. So while you’re enforcing the 10-second rule for that dropped French fry, remember to impose the one-minute rule on the driver. It doesn’t just save money, it keeps the air cleaner!
  • Drive like a Zen master. Fast starts and rushing up to a stop light just gobble gas. You know that, right? Consider this a reminder with a bonus factoid: “Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town,” according to the fuel-watchers at fueleconomy.gov. So even though you’re steamed about $4 a gallon gasoline, take it smooth and easy. As a bonus you’ll be safer and you won’t annoy me so much on the road.
  • Slow down. Don’t just make it just a smooth ride, make it a slow ride. Follow the speed limit, according to fueleconcomy.gov, and you’ll save about 20 cents on every gallon of gas burned. (I can’t follow the math there, but let’s trust the geeks on this.) While cars and trucks achieve their best fuel economy at different speeds, “gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph,” according to the government-funded group.
  • Maintain Your Car. Keep current with oil changes and filter changes, and in particular, keep your tires inflated properly (think of the physics at work here) and your car will reward you by running well and getting the best gas-mileage it can achieve.
  • Forego the A/C. This is not always viable in hot areas. But if you turn it on automatically the minute the car warms up inside, you might reconsider your strategy and test the outside air. Of course, if you’ll be breathing all those unfiltered road emissions from the person you’re tailgating….

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