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Car Driving Tips (From The Five Minute Money Manager)

By David Bakke

cost of unsafe drivingIn a continuing series, what I am trying to do with the Five Minute Money Manager is to show you ways that you can impact your personal economy by taking up very little time. Most can be done in five minutes or less. A great deal of them involve changing our behaviors, and a behavior that is very near and dear to a lot of us is…driving aggressively.

Who, Me?

I think that a lot more of us are guilty of this than we are willing to admit. But if you get right down to it, we all know who we are. We’re the ones who think that 55 mph is just a suggestion, the ones that change lanes on the road like we’re stunt drivers, and the ones that insist on blowing past the guy we think isn’t driving fast enough even though we’ll both roll up to the next stop light at the same time. We may also think that our time spent driving is a great time to get caught up on emails from our Blackberry, texting our friends, and anything else we can think of.

The Numbers

A very quick Internet search yielded these sobering numbers regarding your money and safe driving:

  • Your fuel economy can decrease by as much as 25% when you drive at 75 mph rather than 55 mph.
  • Auto accidents cost every American an average of $1,000 per year.
  • A typical DUI now costs just about ten thousand dollars.

Slow Down

Let’s dig into these numbers for a minute. Even I was shocked by a few of these. Based on my own experiences, I found that driving at 65 mph decreases you gas mileage by about 10%. 70 mph takes it up to 17%, and at 75 mph, your gas mileage can go down by as much as 25%. Look at this example. You have a 20 mile commute to work, mostly on the freeway. Your car gets 20 miles per gallon. That would mean that you could save approximately $650 annually by driving the speed limit rather than at 75. And for those of us that drive faster than 75, the decreased fuel mileage goes off the charts.

Pay Attention

Auto accidents cost you money personally, whether you have them or not. Even if it’s not you getting into the accidents, other people’s accidents will lead to higher insurances rates for all as the insurance company needs to offset these accidents with higher rates for everyone. If you happen to have had accidents in the past, the costs extend far beyond just your insurance. Don’t forget about out-of-pocket medical expenses, property damage, lost productivity at work, any medical injuries, and a decreased quality of life. At first I thought this $1,000 sounded too high, but when you factor everything in, it is probably about right.

Drinking and Driving? Forget About It

This topic should simply be a no-brainer. And this is regardless of whether you’re single or married, kids or no kids, the financial aspects of it, or the safety aspects. This country has made getting a DUI incredibly expensive, for a very good reason. They are trying to deter these people. Call a cab, call a friend, do whatever…it’s just not worth it. Life is too valuable.

I did not spend any time on how to drive safely. This was only meant to point out to you how much some of your unsafe driving practices may be costing you. If you don’t drive safely, I am quite sure you know what to do to become a safe driver. For what it’s worth, most auto insurance companies will offer a discount if you complete a defensive driving course. That’s something to consider.

Unsafe driving probably costs you a lot more than you think. I was floored when I saw the stats on what speeding does to your gas mileage. If you think you’re doing all you can to save money in your everyday life, take five minutes to objectively review how safely you drive and you may uncover a whole new area in which to positively impact your personal economy as well as those around you.

Comments?  Feedback?  Feel free to share with us below.

(photo credit: gabrielsaldana)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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  • Mike Z

    Fuel is not cheap, but it is also not incredibly expensive (yet). I would argue that in most cases, driving slightly faster is worth the lower fuel economy because time is more valuable than fuel. The only exception is that we can’t drive so fast that it results in expensive speeding tickets – then the savings is gone. A perfect time to speed is right before the green light turns yellow/red. You can speed up just a bit and cut off 2 minutes of time just sitting at the light (and wasting fuel too).

    DUI is unfortunately expensive for drivers who are not impaired because the DUI BAC standards have been set artifically low. A BAC of 0.09 was perfectly safe and legal just a few years ago. Now, anything over 0.08 is by default unsafe. It makes no sense. Take a look at Getmadd.com and NMA.org.

    • david

      Mike

      That is quite an interesting perspective.

      I would say that if you limit your “speeding” to right before the light turns red, then you’d be OK, but you should not minimize the safety factor in fast driving as well.

      I think the gov’t is intent on making drinking and driving so expensive that its just not even worth it.

      Thus, the lower limits.

      Thanks for commenting

      • Mike Z

        That really bothers me. People play this stupid game like lower speeds = safer speeds when that is just not the case.

        People should just drive with the flow of traffic, regardless of what number some politician puts on a speed limit sign. Traffic studies have shown that roads are more dangerous when the speed limits are significantly underposted because it creates are larger variance between people obeying the posted speed vs. people driving with the flow of traffic.

        • David Bakke

          Mike

          I am a firm beleiver in driving with the flow. If the speed limit is 55, but everyone is doing 80, you can be sure I’ll be doing 80. Obviously that’s the safer thing to do.

          Always good to have a spirited discussion. And I appreciate people that don’t agree with everything that I have to say.

  • Kevin V

    “I found that driving at 65 mph decreases you gas mileage by about 10 percent.”

    For freeways here in California, 65 is the speed limit. So really, to
    save on gas Id have to drive a bit lower than the speed limit.

    • david

      Kevin

      Great point–its 65 on a lot of freeways here in Atlanta as well.

      I guess it just makes sense not to go over the speed limit then.

      Thanks for weighing in!

  • http://change-is-possible.net H Lee D

    Fuel economy changes by car, so each person would really need to figure out their mileage for their own car. A lot of conventional wisdom about cars simply isn’t true any more, because it was developed 20 or more years ago; cars were built differently.

    I would add to list of not driving drunk or while texting or while talking on the phone: not driving sleepy. If you’re falling asleep, you can’t focus on driving. If you actually fall asleep, you can’t focus on anything!

    • david

      H Lee

      You are right on point–driving while sleepy can be just as dangerous, if not more,than driving while texting or drnking or anything else.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  • Travis

    Mike Z, I don’t think the article has anything to do with safe speeds but rather what you can save by slowing down. Anyway, I think some time and energy and maybe another article should be focused on merging. This goes for both the drivers merging and the drivers already on the highway. Where I live in Seattle and driving on I-90 the merging traffic is almost always the cause of the slowdowns. This causes breaking and then stop and go traffic. Which in the end costs a lot of money.

    Anyway, great article and something to think about. I do drive aggressively but that is changing as I notice that I fuel up a lot more.

    Also, what are your statistics on drafting behind another vehicle? I can’t find to much about it around or rather statistics around it.

    I did a not so scientific study on a trip a few weeks ago. On the way to my destination I drafted off a lot of vehicles that were bigger then my car was and I did notice that I increased my gas mileage from an EPA estimated 23mpg to 28mpg. A 21% increase. That was awesome.

    On the way back I did everything I could to keep cars from being out in front of me or close enough to create a draft. I noticed then that my gas mileage dropped to almost 22mpg.

    Anyway, thanks for the article.

    Travis

    • David

      Travis

      You bring up some good points, and your little experiment was a great idea.

      It shows in hard numbers the effect that “drafting” can have.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.paydaycashloan.com.au/ the cash doc

    My father frequently points that to me but I never listen. He’s a mechanical engineer and he certainly knows the best stuff about car efficiency but I hate it when he drives. It’s just sooooo slow it would take me forever to reach my destination. Now that I have my own car, I finally see his point. Driving slow indeed uses less fuel and make your car last longer. Now that I’m older I don’t want to be involved in some freak accident involving reckless driving. And when you drive faster the maintenance and fast cash it will rob you of will be higher.

    • David

      Hey there

      Right on point. Plus, sometimes it just stinks to have to admit that one’s father is right about so many things…LOL

      Thanks for commenting!

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