Want to save gas on your drive? Try slowing down. On a Memorial Day weekend trip, I kept our car’s speed between 55 and 60 miles per hour on a road trip from the Twin Cities down and back to Decorah, Iowa, and managed to average 54 miles per gallon in our seven-year-old Prius. This trip included three passengers on the way home, along with a school year’s worth of clothes, books and dorm-room accessories that packed our car from floor mat to roof.

As someone who likes to conserve energy, I discovered it really helps to have a consumption meter on the dash that shows which speeds are best for fuel economy.

Gas mileage typically diminishes rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. For every 5 mph you drive above 50, it will cost you about 25 cents per gallon of gas. So by driving 55 mph rather than 75 mph, you could be saving yourself about a dollar per gallon.

While driving 60 mph on a highway that posted a maximum of 65 mph, vehicles large and small were passing me as if they were late for their starting pole position at the Indy 500. I kept reminding myself that we are not required to drive the maximum speed limit. Maybe it was the benefit of morning walks and yoga classes, but even with the speeding traffic, I wasn’t feeling harried.

Truth be told, being a competitive runner, I love to go fast. However, as a marathoner, I know that by going out too fast one can easily burn out before the course is completed. Self-restraint is essential. We 21st-century Americans are burning fuels at a pace that is both unsustainable and environmentally disastrous. We all must learn to slow down and burn less fuel in order to save our beautiful planet. Otherwise, we’re like a vast pack of lemmings heading faster and faster for a cliff, about which we’ve already been warned.

It takes considerable self-restraint not to go fast, especially in a car with plenty of power. I had no problem with speeding back in the days of driving my 1983 Chevette, which could only surpass 60 mph headed downhill with the tail wind. Paradoxically, we demonstrate greater strength of character when we resist the urge to put the pedal to the metal. The biggest challenge in order to conserve energy while driving is the willingness to not go with the flow.

I’m fortunate to live within walking and biking distance of work and church. I’ve discovered it is calming and refreshing to enjoy the weather, see and hear the birds throughout much of the year, and to arrive at my destination in a good mood. Driving, on the other hand, seems to stimulate competitiveness and often has a souring effect on one’s disposition.

I have yet to meet someone walking who isn’t willing to share the path or who seems compelled to beat me to the next stop sign.


Daniel Johnson lives in Crystal and blogs at savoringservant.blogspot.com.