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Driving to save Mother Earth

I’m climbing up onto my own personal bandwagon today.  I would be a liar if I said there wasn’t a HUGE part of me that is writing this particular post purely in the hope of improving my daily driving frustrations.  But when I put some thought into it, making the changes I am going to suggest below really can make a big difference to Mother Earth.  So please, join me on a drive through the road-ragey part of my brain that secretly wishes sometimes we were all in dodgem cars so I could ram people.

Left Wing

I am going to start with one of the most basic principles of driving in Australia.  KEEP LEFT.  2 little words.  Pretty clear instructions.  And yet, on a daily basis, I am totally astounded by how many people seem to fail to put these words into action in their driving.

I do a lot of freeway and highway driving because I live in a semi rural area.  During my many hours of commuting, I have come to the conclusion that traffic congestion could almost be completely eliminated if we just spent a little bit more time educating future drivers about keeping left.  Ok, maybe not completely eliminated, but I reckon we could make a good dent in it (ha ha… dent…get it?….car humour…sorry).

Did you know that, in Victoria, where the speed limit is 80 or higher, it is against the law to drive in the right hand lane unless you are overtaking someone? That’s right!  It’s the law!

There are similar laws in other states and territories.  It’s the reason you pass a sign every couple of kilometres on freeways that says “Keep left unless overtaking”.  It’s not just there for decoration.  Not only that, if you drive in the right hand lane without overtaking, you can be fined and lose 3 points off your license.

Now I can hear many of you piping up at this point with arguments such as “if you weren’t speeding, you wouldn’t need to overtake” and “I’m doing the speed limit so it shouldn’t be an issue”.  I have a couple of things for you to consider.

Most speedos are inaccurate.  Almost everyone has been through one of those overhead speed checker thingies at some stage and you would have noticed that your speedo generally shows somewhere in the vicinity of about 5kms higher than your actual speed. This varies from car to car. So even though your needle shows you firmly on the speed limit, in reality you’re probably going 3 to 5 kms slower.  Everyone else is also driving with an inaccurate speedo.  So while you think you’re doing 100, the person behind you may think you’re sitting on 95.

It’s such a shame this is one of those laws that never really gets enforced here in Victoria. Setting aside the emotional trauma suffered by frustrated commuters stuck behind tandem drivers blocking the road, and ignoring all the safety aspects, there’s a big environmental cost to consider.

Slowing down and speeding up again uses more fuel than just maintaining the same speed.  It may only make a dollar or so difference to you personally each week, but multiply that across all the cars on the road and now we’re looking at a big chunk of our precious, limited resources that could be saved!

If we all make an effort to keep left and just let people past, traffic would flow a lot better, there would be less braking and accelerating which means more efficient use of fuel and less wear and tear on cars.  Lets not forget that wear and tear costs money and also uses up resources in replacement parts.

And really, why not let people past?  You’re still moving forwards.  Moving over and letting someone past isn’t going to cost you anything.  If they want to go faster than others, good for them.  If they are choosing to speed, blocking them is not going to make for safer roads.  It’s much more likely to end with the speeder doing something even more risky and unsafe to get past.  Better to let them go in my book.

If you have a Diesel car.

My car runs on Diesel.  I have had a Diesel car for at least 10 years.  I learned pretty quickly that it’s splashy and smelly and there was always some residue on the pump handle.  No biggie.  I use paper towel to hold the pump or wash my hands afterwards. Easy done.

Not sure if anyone else has noticed that some servos now seem to offer trucks cheaper diesel than cars.  This really annoyed me so I set about finding out why.  The bloke working at the counter in the BP store couldn’t tell me.  Super helpful…

It turns out that since so many cars are now on diesel, and there are so many women driving these diesel cars, they have put an additive in the diesel to make it smell nicer and stop it splashing as much (anti-foaming agent) so us poor ladies don’t have to worry our pretty little heads about getting it on our dainty hands or the smell offending our delicate sensibilities.  Can you tell that this reasoning offended my not-so-delicate sensibilities?

The translation here is that we are paying extra for a diluted fuel that will give us fewer kilometres per tank and possibly isn’t ideal for the engine life either.  So I make sure to fill up at the truck pumps.  I save a couple of cents per liter upfront and I get more kms per tank, which is much better for Mother Earth.  If they try and stop me, you’ll all hear me yelling about discrimination against car drivers.

Having said that, truck pumps are hi-flow.  This means the nozzle is bigger on the pump to allow more fuel through faster.  Yay for spending less time at the petrol station but this means your car must be able to take a hi-flow nozzle.  Check this out before you try and fill up at the truck pump or you’ll just end up giving yourself and your car a diesel shower.

Wheeling and dealing

Keeping your tyres pumped up to the right pressure makes a difference to your fuel consumption.  Having your tyres at the right pressure can save you a decent amount of cash over the course of a year on fuel as well as extending the life of your tyres!  This is most definitely a win/win for you and Mother Earth.

Your car’s owner’s manual should have a table that tells you what pressure your front and back tyres should be.  If you can’t find your manual, there’s really no excuse because Google has the instructions for everything ever.

Getting your car serviced regularly by a reputable mechanic will help keep things in peak condition and extend the life of your car and its parts.  FYI You don’t have to take your car to the manufacturer for servicing to maintain your warranty.  Most mechanics can perform a log book service for you and many of the independents are significantly cheaper than dealerships.  Find someone you can trust (recommendations are always good) and take your car in on the recommended schedule.

Stay Nude

Every accessory you add to your car increases wind resistance.  Every extra bit of wind resistance increases the amount of fuel your car uses to move you around.  Take off unused or unnecessary accessories and save yourself some cash by saving fuel (and therefore preserving earth’s resources).

I am guilty of owning a very environmentally unfriendly car that is big and wind resistant already.  Then I added roof racks.  To make matters worse, once summer was over and I didn’t need to cart kayaks around for a while, I didn’t take them off because…well….life. I just kept forgetting.  I reckon this has cost me about 50kms per tank of fuel and a very guilty conscience for being a bit of a hypocrite.  I have taken them off now!

The same can be said for unneeded things in the car that add weight.  Increased weight also means increased fuel consumption.  Empty your boot or back seat and don’t cart around things you don’t need to.

The bottom line

Like I said earlier, these things may only make a dollar or two difference to you a week, but collectively, we can make a big difference for the planet!  Plus think about what you could do with $52.  That’s about the right amount of money to buy 15 trees.  It just so happens that planting 15 trees a year is about the right amount to offset your car’s carbon footprint for that year.  Winning!

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