The Extra Mile

The Extra Mile: July

extra mile

Economy driving; call it a philosophy, a mindset, hobby, or what you will, but there’s certainly a wide diversity of attitudes to it within society.

Mention the subject in some company and you’ll get very strange stares and very swift changes of topic. Maybe some people assume that you are poverty stricken if you try to save fuel. Even the best of friends can go glassy eyed at the mention of economy driving, and it’s almost as risky as mentioning God.

Given the opportunity or a flicker of interest though, you might well argue that there are three basic arguments in favour of saving fuel when you can: the fun of the challenge, the financial gain, and the benefits of reducing pollution.

What’s not immediately apparent, though, is a huge potential benefit for the UK economy. With over 25 million diesel and petrol cars registered in Britain, any savings have a huge beneficial effect on the balance of trade.

But reduced road fuel consumption also cuts precious duty and VAT income for the Treasury, so maybe governments are not really that enthusiastic about supporting fuel economy, other than to meet the EC commitments for greenhouse gas emissions?

But let’s return to the philosophy of getting “the extra mile” out of your gallon. What side-effects, positive or negative, are likely outcomes when you’re driving with fuel economy in mind? Even with the most considerate driving, there’s probably little doubt that at times you’re going to slow down a few other people, and maybe even mildly upset some drivers by not going faster.

It may well cost them a minute or two on their journey, at worst, but it probably also saves them a few pence in fuel costs. But the outcome can often be the build up of a small convoy behind you, if overtaking is difficult, with some of the drivers getting distinctly unhappy.

In many instances even cruising at the legal limit, be it 40mph, 50mph or 60mph, is going to upset some people. Once you see such a situation, you can easily start to become stressed.

Do you have any moral duty to help such drivers get past you and then continue their journey at an illegal speed? You certainly shouldn’t obstruct them, but you’re sometimes faced with a moral dilemma where it might be safer for all concerned if you were to speed up and eliminate the overtaking urge of those following you. But surely not to an illegal speed? Difficult isn’t it?

But what is it about some impatient drivers – the sort that are usually going to be most troubled by your economy driving? You can visualise the morning scenario. Mr or Miss Angry jump into a grubby car, with one brake light bulb blown. Late for work, they start their engine, spot the fuel gauge is showing near to empty, and curse their partner for leaving it that way.

Nevertheless, they roar off down the road, realising that they’re far too late to even stop for any fuel. Just when it might be wise to think of driving economically, they roar up just behind you, as you quietly cruise to work, with time in hand. You spot them looming large in your rear mirror and get the message quickly. The best thing is to somehow get clear of such drivers, safely and quickly!

Generally you’re safest when travelling at your own chosen speed, and keeping well away from other cars whose drivers are unhappy with your pace; so the best thing is to find a way to escape such an uncomfortable situation.

Over the years, I’ve certainly slid off into a convenient lay-by to get out of such difficulties, or stopped for fuel when I didn’t really need to, or even taken an extra circuit of a roundabout, and it’s a tactic very much worth bearing in mind.

Otherwise your driving is going to be influenced by other drivers, not just your own judgement and skills, other drivers may get increasingly stressed, and your quest for economy will be seriously compromised.

Victor Harman



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