Reading the road aheadOn of the key concepts about saving fuel is reading the road ahead in an effort to never have to come to a complete stop. If you've ever had the misfortune to have broken down and needed to push a car, you'll know that its pretty hard to get a car moving, but once it is moving keeping it going is actually pretty easy. We want to try and prevent the car having to move away from a standstill as much as we can whilst still being a safe and responsible driver.
So how can we go about this? What does "reading the road" really mean? Put simply its all about being observant and planning your actions in advance. For example, imagine that a car some way ahead of you is waiting to turn right across traffic; do you either carry on at the same speed and brake just before you reach the car, or do you begin to slow down by lifting off the accelerator early? The answer in the context of saving fuel is to begin slowing down early, with the hope being that by the time you get there, the car turning right has gone and you don't need to stop. This way you save fuel whilst you are getting there, and you save fuel by not having to accelerate away from stationary. Remember the key points here - we are trying to preserve our momentum by avoiding unnecessarily slowing down.
Here are some of the things you could look out for whilst out and about, and ideas about driving style that will help with fuel consumption. Please remember - always drive safely and with consideration for others on the roads.
- An obvious but often overlooked point is that if there are traffic lights ahead of you that are changing to red or are already at red, start slowing down early. There is no point wasting fuel by driving at speed towards them braking at the last moment.
- Whilst on the motorway, make sure you leave a reasonably large gap between you and the car in front. Not only is this safer, but it gives you a chance to avoid "reaction breaking" where you slow down as soon as you see the car in front's brake lights, even if its not needed. Often drivers will just tap their brakes lightly for a second or less without realising just out of habit when a car moves into their lane for example.
- Again whilst on the motorway, if you are going to overtake a slower vehicle, try to wait until you can take advantage of a flat stretch, or ideally a downhill section. Accelerating hard up a hill will use significantly more fuel.
- If you are in slow moving traffic, there is no point in quickly accelerating to fill the gap between you and the car in front. Accelerate gently so you move forward slowly. Ideally, you'd want to time it so that you never need to stop whilst in traffic - although this is often difficult to achieve.
- Whilst driving in town and built up areas, look for "warning signs" that you might need to slow down or stop. Examples are people indicating to turn, broken down cars, learner drivers, pedestrians waiting to cross the road, cars turning and so on.