Slow down? Us? Forget it!

EXPERTS: U.S.A. FULL OF LEADFOOT CHARLIES DESPITE HIGH GAS PRICES

We’ve had two years of extreme belt-tightening, and gas prices continue to hover at around $3.00 a gallon nationally.

But are we using a socked foot instead on the gas pedal instead of lead?

Not on your life, according to Department of Energy, who say aggressive highway behavior such as speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by a whopping 33% at highway speeds, and 5% around town.

Also, are you shocked and appalled at pump prices? You pay more more if you’re Speed Racer out there, according to The Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) who say drivers can assume each 5 MPH they drive above 60 MPH hikes the price they pay for the flammable red stuff.  “It’s like paying an additional 20 cents a gallon for gas, ”  said a spokesperson.

Auto Gigolo, not slowing down, at Poconos Raceway

According to a GHSA survey of state highway safety agencies, just one state—Wisconsin—has reported a noticeable level of slower vehicle speeds stemming from recent price hikes. Officials there say traffic volume is down slightly, but speeds are also down, which may account for the fewer and less serious traffic crashes across the whole state.

“I try to remember to slow down,” says Eduardo Rodriguez of upper Manhattan. “But today, it’s always hurry, hurry, hurry everywhere you go. Everybody’s gotta be there yesterday.”

Commercial vehicles are slowing slightly, state troopers report, with many traveling at or below the speed limit. A handful of other states note the reduced speed of commercial vehicles, likely resulting from more trucking companies setting policies that require their drivers to stay below a set speed, such as 67 mph. In addition to helping fight the cost of record-high gas prices, slowing down also increases the likelihood of surviving a crash.

But slowing down isn’t just about saving money, or gas. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a high-speed crash, a passenger vehicle is subjected to forces so severe that the vehicle structure cannot withstand the impact of the crash and maintain survival space in the occupant compartment. Further evidence comes from a 2005 study that showed even a small reduction in speed can have a big impact on lives saved.

In the report, published in the Transportation Research Record, author Rune Elvik found that a 1 percent decrease in travel speed reduces injury crashes by about 2 percent, serious injury crashes by about 3 percent and fatal crashes by about 4 percent. These reductions are critically needed, experts say, as speeding remains a serious highway safety problem. Nearly 13,500 people died in speed-related crashes in 2006.

GHSA Chairman Christopher J. Murphy says, “Nationally, GHSA members report that we are not seeing any noticeable decreases in travel speeds by passenger vehicles. However, given the extremely high gas prices and life-saving benefits of slowing down, we urge the public to ease off the accelerator.”

– Josh Max, Auto Gigolo