The Art of Driving – and how to get your best gas mileage

This will be a longer one, but there are some good lessons in here. Go get a cup of coffee and get comfortable…

Sure, there’s a difference between the art of swooping along an old country road and that of the stop-and-go of the city. But there are similar techniques for each, and it’s becoming apparent that this art is being lost. So let’s try to recapture it, because it is part of the romance of the open road.

This is key:
Literally, EVERYTHING here has to do with conserving inertia. Conserve inertia and you won’t waste fuel to generate it. Think about it a moment: You burn fuel to generate inertia, and every time you have to hit the brakes or spin the wheel hard, you waste it. The trick is to stay in motion, conserving motion, at speed, as much as possible. Forget about the stuff spewed by the hyper-milers. This works, and it’s MUCH safer.

Learn to drive smoothly:
Glance at your passengers while you’re driving – if their heads are being tossed about, then you’re not driving smoothly. Braking, accelerating, turning. Watch them. make it your goal to drive smoothly. YOU are the one in control, learn to do it right.

Learn to use your lane wisely:
Stay in your lane. You hopefully heard it from your driver’s ed teacher, now you’re hearing it from me. Again. Learn to drive a perfectly straight line without drifting so that you don’t need to correct all the time. Correcting wastes fuel and betrays the trust of those around you. Stay in your lane around turns. Drifting into the other lane around a turn is points off for lack of style and double points off for endangering others. ESPECIALLY around blind corners! If you find yourself drifting out of your lane around a corner, then you’re not in control and you better figure out that slowing down gets you back into control.

Gas Mileage:
Everybody’s concerned about gas mileage nowadays, but the same principles also apply to the longevity of your vehicle. Do these things and you will have less engine wear (car lasts longer) less brake wear (less maintenance costs) and lower fuel bills.

First point – Following Distance:
Modern cars and trucks accelerate better than ever, and they stop better than ever. HOWEVER, that’s no excuse to tailgate somebody. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a hurry, get your head out of that space and think about it a minute: You’ll get there when God says you’re going to get there, no sooner, no later. So figure it out and understand that God’s in control of it.

Think about this a moment. If you’re tailgating, then you’re on and off, on and off the gas all the time. Every time you press down on the gas, the engine systems all yell, “Okay everybody let’s go FASTER!” And the fuel is hosed into the engine in anticipation. Do this a hundred times during a commute, and guess what, you get 4 MPG less on average.

Pretend your brakes are bad (hey, I’ve had a few cars like this) – Look ahead in traffic; this will make you ease up on the gas a bit, and drop back a bit. The guy in front of you can change speeds all he wants, but now you have enough space so that you don’t need to accelerate every time he does, or brake every time he does. Look in front of that guy, see what he’s seeing. Learn to look three or four cars ahead to see what traffic’s doing, then you can anticipate it without having to accelerate hard or slam the brakes.

Second point – Cornering:
Learn to carve a corner smoothly, just like a skier leans into a turn and carves it. This is the same for city driving as it is for country driving. Slamming the vehicle through a turn is tough on your passengers, and guess what – it slows you down! You can go a LOT faster, with a lot fewer complaints from your passengers, if you learn to do it smoothly. Watch their heads – if they’re going to one side suddenly… But I said that already.

Cornering has three specific aspects: Entry, Apex, and Exit. Learn to not only stay in your lane, but to use it. Begin at the center of the lane, then while decelerating, ease into the sharpest point of the turn, slide through the apex without changing speed, then ease your way out, accelerating.

To put it into engineering terms: the entry and exit of the corner are executed at different g-rates than the apex. The entry and exit should be executed as tangential curves, not as an extension of the center. Think of a boomerang: it’s curved sharply in the center, but more gradually on each side of center. Execute your corner in that way and watch how suddenly it feels smooth to you.

Cornering the right way should feel like a ‘swoop’, not like a rock being slammed into a wall. Use the 2/3 of the lane you’re allowed to use – the middle, a little to the left, and a little to the right. Swerving to the left or drifting to the right is not only dangerous, but it’s hard on the blood pressure for oncoming drivers.

Third point – Anticipation:
See the light turning yellow a block ahead? Get off the gas NOW. So what if you have some distance open up between you and the next guy – that’s gas you’re not burning, just to get there fast and now you have to sit there and idle. (So what if the bonehead next to you dives in and cuts you off? He was going to do that anyway, and at least you just avoided swearing at him.) Running right up to the light or stop sign and slamming the brakes at the last second is tougher on the mileage, vehicle, and passengers. Think about it – why waste the inertia?

Again, it’s all about the inertia. Save inertia, save fuel.

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