One of the tips you hear time and again in order to save gas (and which I have given) is to reduce your speed to 55 miles per hour when driving. This will save you about 20% on fuel consumption (a 20% return on your money) compared to driving faster. The question is whether or not this is a realistic way to save. While it sounds good in concept, have you ever tried to drive the speed limit (or below?) I did on part of this road trip just to see how realistic driving the posted speed limits is and I can tell you there are a good many people on the road from San Francisco to Seattle that aren’t happy with me.
Highway 5 has a speed limit of 65 or 70 miles per hour depending which stretch you’re driving on. I drove between 60 and 70 for a six hour period and never passed another car – everyone was driving faster than me including trucks (technically I did pass a few truck on long uphill stretches, but I’m not counting these since all re-passed me when the road flattened out). While I didn’t seem to create too much anger on the highway when traffic was pretty light, that quickly changed when there was road construction and the highway went down to one lane.
Obviously it’s possible to drive 55 miles per hour, but I think you’d need a really hard skin to be able to pull it off on a consistent basis unless there is just not much traffic and it’s easy for cars to pass where you live. In fact, you could be putting your life on the line if you were unlucky and ran into someone with a fit of road rage. I especially think that after the way I was treated driving the speed limit in a few towns I visited.
I tried driving the speed limit in all the towns I stopped in along the way. Driving 25 when people are used to driving 50 will get you more than your fare share of hand gestures, honks, flashed lights and dirty looks. There seem to be quite a few people on the road that are not patient in the least bit.
As I have mentioned before, I don’t drive much in the US these days (I don’t have a car), but is it realistic to always drive the speed limit (or even less with the 55 miles per hour gas saving advice)? Is it a legitimate way to save money or will you end up antagonizing all the drivers around you if you try it?
Bonus Random Road Trip Thought: Why is it that no matter where you are driving, there is always a country radio station that comes in loud and clear while all the others are barely audible above the static?