Fanatical Fuel Economy - Hypermilers Can Be Dangerous

By: Scott Siegel

There is some very bad advice out there in regards to increasing your fuel economy. I recently saw an article from the Washington Post. It talked about a driving strategy called hypermiling. While some of the tips presented were useful and legitimate ways to save gas, such as being gentle on the gas pedal, others were just plain dangerous.

The post described this particular fuel saving methodology as hypermiling. It described hypermilers as people who modify their driving to improve mileage and reduce emissions. That can describe many concerned motorists interested in saving gas and the environment. The difference between hypermilers and normal concerned drivers is that hypermilers are fanatics.

It seems that any activity pushed to what one would consider fanaticism is dangerous and this is no different. Some of the techniques suggested by hypermilers can put you the driver and your passengers in great peril.

For example here is one piece of advice offered by some hypermilers: TURN OFF YOUR CAR AND COAST. This behavior is likened to hybrids that shut the gas engine off when the car is sitting still. But with hybrids, the electric motor is how the vehicle starts and runs at slow speeds so the car is not really off, just running on a different system.

When you turn a conventional car off, the first thing that happens is your steering wheel locks. You have absolutely no control of the car at that point. The second thing is there is no power to the vehicle. Not only can you not steer but you can't power the car if you need to accelerate quickly if an emergency situation should arise.

Additionally the power assisted brake system shuts down. In order to stop the car you have to literally put your brake foot through the floor board. Again an extremely dangerous position to put you, your passengers and other motorists in.

Advice like this is irresponsible and can end up causing someone harm. Another suggestion by Some hypermilers is to over-inflate your tires. Again another dangerous suggestion. Over inflating your tires causes less tread to be in contact with the road. The control of your car is purely through the contact your tires have with the road. If you compromise that, you compromise your control and safety.

Additionally if you over inflate your tires they will wear faster. That means you will loose tread and ultimately loose more traction. Watching your tire pressure is good advice. Keeping them at the proper inflation does save gas. Over inflating is a safety hazard.

The basic premise of hypermilers is good. Relearning how to drive in a responsible manner with fuel economy in mind is the best way to save gas. While much of their advice can be called mainstream, such as slowing down, their fanaticism adds too much of a degree of danger. Common sense driving, learning the correct way to drive fuel efficiently, is the best way to save gas. After all, the best fuel saving device is you, the driver.

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