I have to admit that my driving style has been modified by the new Prius. It has a data screen which will show you exactly how many miles per gallon you are using at the exact moment you look at it. It also has a “fairly accurate” cumulative gas mileage readout.
It didn’t take me very long to get motivated to do an experiment about my gas mileage. I typically have been the sort of person who follows the speed limits on roads where I know I am likely to be overlooked by the cops. Out on the little county roads there is rarely any police presence, and so I have had tendency to engage my “Mario Andretti” atavar and drive like a bat out of hell on those roads. I have found this to be a lot of fun, since those roads are generally twisty and curvy, challenging. You do have to worry about deer and cattle being in the way, however. I have hit a deer, and it is an experience I’m not anxious to repeat any time soon.
Anyway, one day fairly soon after we acquired the new car, I was driving home from Springfield on I44, and I was not in any particular rush. I had noticed that our usual way of coming home at about 74 mph resulted in us getting around 48.7 miles per gallon. Now this is nothing to complain about, but I wondered if changing my speed would make a difference. I chose to experiment with 65 miles per hour, remembering Jim’s experience of rather stress free driving at that rate of speed when he was going out to California in a van that really didn’t want to go any faster than that.
Imagine my surprise when my cumulative mileage for the trip jumped to 53.4 miles per gallon. Five extra miles per gallon was a good ten percent improvement, and I don’t know that many people who are not attracted by a sale that gives them ten percent off the price of shoes or clothes. It didn’t take me long to figure out that changing my speed to 65 from 74 meant it took me about six minutes longer to get to Springfield. Six minutes — ten percent off — hmm.
I have gotten in the habit of setting my cruise control at 65 when I’m on the interstate, and at the speed limit and no higher when I am travelling to other places. This habit has brought a certain attitude in other drivers to my attention.
When I am going from my lovely town to the town that is about 20 miles north of here, I tend to stick to the 60 mile per hour speed limit. The road is fairly straight, and about 14 miles out of town it becomes narrow with rather steep drop-offs into the ditches. It wends its way through country populated with lots of deer, many of whom appear to have a need to commit suicide by jumping in front of cars. Despite the fact that the speed limit is 60, many of the people traversing this section of road feel that it is their God-given right to drive at 70 (or more), and they do not take kindly to boring stupid people who insist on staying at the speed limit. They will ride your tail, flash their lights, shake their fists, and roar past when they finally get a break in traffic, uttering curses and making obscene gestures. Al of this caused simply because you do not share their need to shave three minutes off the travel time to the mutual destination.
Okay, I understand pushing your peppy little car through the challenge of twisty roads simply for the joy of it. But I do not understand acting like every road that has pavement ought to have the same speed limit as the Interstate highway.
And the final question I have is, what makes these people so special that they believe that they do not have to obey the traffic laws? If you asked them if they thought they had the right to rob a bank or murder their neighbor, they would look at you as if you were crazy to think they would do such a horrible thing. And yet, they think nothing of breaking the speed laws, driving while inebriated, ignoring stop signs, refusing to use their turn signals, and breaking all other manner of laws that govern how we are supposed to drive.
Why is this? What is the big hurry anyway? I’ve gotten so that I rather enjoy the less adrenaline filled trips from point A to point B.
I never thought I’d say that!