Skip to comments.Drivers Are Reducing Their Speed (High Gas Prices Lead to Fewer Fatalities)
Posted on 06/01/2008 5:18:05 PM PDT by Diana in Wisconsin
Wisconsin motorists appear to be driving slower than they were this time last year, and a State Patrol official says the $4-plus cost of gasoline seems to be a major reason.
And as speeds seem to have dropped, so have the number of traffic fatalities in the state - by 29% so far this year - while state troopers and sheriff's deputies are reporting that they are seeing fewer vehicles on the state's freeways.
While some of it is anecdotal, evidence is beginning to mount that gasoline prices are having a marked effect on the driving habits of many Wisconsin residents.
The state Department of Transportation has found that motorists on four-lane state highways and freeways have reduced their average speed by a little more than 1 mph over the last year.
That may not seem like much, but when taken across the estimated 60 billion miles driven each year in the state, it adds up. It's the first time in seven years that the speeds on freeways and major highways have dropped.
"The troopers see a general drop in overall speed," said Maj. Dan Lonsdorf, director of the State Patrol's Bureau of Transportation Safety. "People are driving slower partly because the price of gasoline is so much higher."
Traffic was moving at slightly less than 69 mph on average in late April and early May, authorities said. A year earlier, the average speed was just above 70 mph.
Even though it's only 1 mph, "we think that it is significant," Lonsdorf said. "When you hit something, even if you are going just a mile or two faster, the crash can be so much more violent and less survivable."
As of Friday, the number of traffic fatalities this year is down 82, or 29%, from last year.
"I think that a big chunk of the fatality reduction is that people are slowing down and traveling less," Lonsdorf said.
"Several troopers also said they have seen a noticeable drop in the number of people who are going very fast in the 90s and 100s," Lonsdorf added.
The average speed figures are based on readings measured at 150 automatic traffic recording stations throughout Wisconsin. Speed is measured by how long it takes a vehicle to pass between two points on a highway.
While evidence seems to point to drivers slowing on major highways and freeways, two-lane rural highways are an exception, Lonsdorf said. On those roads, traffic is moving about 1 mph faster to 59 from 58 mph last year, he said.
On Friday, the American Automobile Association said the average price for unleaded regular gasoline was $4.08 per gallon in metropolitan Milwaukee, and the statewide average was $4.
Slowing down unquestionably saves fuel. The AAA says for every 5 mph faster that people drive over 60 mph, it is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon of gasoline.
Consumer Reports magazine recently tested a 2007 Toyota Camry equipped with a four-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. The Camry got 40 miles per gallon when driven at 55 mph on a Connecticut highway, 35 miles per gallon at 65 mph and 30 miles per gallon at 75 mph.
"So clearly you are saving gas when you are driving slower on the highway," said Gabe Shenhar, the magazine's senior auto test engineer.
While slowing down saves fuel, so does staying home.
Waukesha County Sheriff Daniel J. Trawicki said that during the Memorial Day weekend "deputies definitely saw a decrease in the amount of vehicles on the roadway" compared with previous holidays. "They saw it particularly on I-43 and I-94."
Not all law enforcement officials credited soaring gasoline prices for slowing traffic.
"Changing driving behavior is a very difficult thing to do," Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said. "I don't think that the price of gas has done that because it's only about a year since it (the price) has spiked."
In Milwaukee County, he said, the slowdown has occurred because his department has more deputies patrolling freeway sites that have had many accidents and high rates of speeding. He called this the department's saturation effort.
The number of crashes on Milwaukee County freeways also has diminished 31% this year.
"You don't get a 31% decline in crashes for the first four months just by chance," Clarke said.
He also said increased congestion on Milwaukee freeways has reduced freeway speeds.
State Troopers are deeply saddened. Less revenue for their Overlords.
However, Checkpoints are UP, so they can stop you and issue you a ticket for pretty much anything they want now from no seatbelt to an illegal hangnail.
Ever get the feeling that the game is rigged? And it's not in our favor!
“The state Department of Transportation has found that motorists on four-lane state highways and freeways have reduced their average speed by a little more than 1 mph over the last year.”
I have noticed the reduction in speed here in Texas as well. When making a trip to El Paso the other day, I only had to drive 80 to keep up with the flow...
I drove back from Memorial Day weekend at between 60 and 65 MPH.
Dozens of large SUVs passed me doing at least 80. Apparently, they have no objection to throwing a $10 bill out the window every 40 miles.
The Amurican pimples aren't moved unless there's a two by four that's beating them over the head (like 9/11).
Fewer SUV sales, demands for higher MPG, demands for more alternative sources and increasing nuke energy and more exploitaion of our own fossil fuel sources are all going to be a result of this.
Here in central TX, where a lot of us drive pickups (me, F-250) are all in the slow lane with our windows down in 98o temps - we can’t afford the gas, let alone the A/C.
I think I get 7 mpg using the air conditioner.
Saturday I drove down to the Virginia State Republican convention. I decided to ease up a bit, so I drove about 65-70. I did notice that several trucks were driving at that speed, when generally trucks either drive at 55, or at 75-80.
So I think the trucks are going slower, and I think that slows down a lot of other traffic that mostly tried to keep ahead of the trucks.
Anyway, on my trip going 65, I ended up round-trip at about 53.1 MPG, which is about as good as I’ve done for a while (I usually get about 48 going at 75-80 MPH).
This is such BS. Everybody knows the faster you go somewhere the less fuel you use getting there. Right?
What kind of car do you drive?
I made a two hundred mile round trip that I usually make every Memorial Day. I did not notice the slower speeds as much as the absence of traffic. The restaurant that I usually eat breakfast at was a lot less crowded than it usually is as well.
If they drove any slower, they’de be going backwards.
I took a trip to my Dads this weekend. Traffic was lighter than normal. The piggybackers were still out in full force and lots of cop cars were visable. Not many were pulled over though. You know that we are going to have to pay for this good behavior, don’t you?
I keep my engine RPM under 2500. Any less and I cannot make it up the hills. I managed to squeeze 50 miles out of a tank of gas though.
I get 32 mpg in my Beemer doing 90.
I agree. They should slow down to 12 MPH.
You should build one of these. It has no windows, will do 150 MPH, and gets great gas mileage.
I’ve increased my commuting mpg from 38 to 51,
largely by driving slower.
The peak mpg for most conventional auto-tranny
vehicles tends to be the slowest speed at which
you usually remain in top gear. This is typically
somewhere between 35 and 45 mph. Even I don’t
drive that slow.
Drive too slow (like more than 10 mph below the
current limit), and you risk being rear-ended by
a less attentive (or more inebriated) driver.
Driving slower is not the real solution.
And the people causing the real problem
don’t actually want a real solution.
Note also that the headline is about fatalities.
They will decline as speed does, but because the
energy dissipated declines, not necessarily
because accident rates decline.
Curiously: “”You don’t get a 31% decline in
crashes for the first four months just by
chance,” Clarke said.”
That sounds more like less overall traffic, period.
But yes, expect people to being driving slower.
I drive at or below (depending on conditions) the limit in the right hand lane all the time, and I used to be amazed at all the NASCAR wannabees blasting past me, hanging on each other’s bumpers. I’ll admit that in the last few months I have noticed fewer vehicles passing me, and acting like fools. I still see the die-hard idiots that continue to drive like gas is $0.30/gal, but they seem to be on the decline.
The traffic along I-25 in Co is unmistakably slower. some as slow as 45, almost unheard of a year ago even here in the mountains.
At least the real slowpokes have the common decency to use the right lane.
this is a setup for the left wing wackos to reintroduce 55 m.p.h. legislation.
I’m no expert in automobiles but I’ve always found it odd that I have always gotten better MPG (on cruise control) at around 75-80 than I do at 60 or 65. I have no idea why that is but the trip computer has consistently confirmed this.
And if the "flatlanders" stop driving "up north" you can bet the the largely tourist based economy of much of Wisconsin has begun and will continue to circle the drain. So where is Diamond Jim going to get the money for his next big ticket budget?
> Everybody knows the faster you go somewhere the
> less fuel you use getting there. Right?
For the benefit of the humor-impaired, no you don’t.
Aero drag is non-linear (perhaps a cubic curve),
and rises much faster than your speed. MPG tends
to improve down to falling out of top gear, or
going grossly below the peak of the torque curve
on a standard tranny.
Anyone who hasn’t determined the optimum MPG for
their vehicles needs to work it out before fuel
becomes too expensive to experiment with.
Here in central TX, where a lot of us drive pickups (me, F-250) are all in the slow lane with our windows down in 98o temps - we cant afford the gas, let alone the A/C.
I think I get 7 mpg using the air conditioner.”
Here in N Nevada, my 1976 C-30 one ton dually 454 doesn’t leave the driveway near as often as it used to. Horses it used to haul are now being ridden on local roads insteal of park trails. If gas gets much more expensive, I will have to find my saddlebags to go shopping with the horse.
I also think there is some slowdown, but I think fatalaties are down because there are much fewer miles being driven overall, especially by retired folks.
I have not had operating A/C in my truck for over 10 years. It helps the mileage some, but I don’t really miss it. Only some of my yuppie passengers whine.
I noticed this speed thing too and I have found that there is another savings that most don’t count when it comes to hybrids.
I have not gotten any tickets in the 5 years since I bought my Civic Hybrid. Something about the constant feedback on performance makes me drive slower. When you see the effects on performance, you “learn” to drive more efficiently. Despite the many speed traps in our area, the local cities won’t be getting money from me anymore.
Needless to say, this also impacts on insurance costs and hassle factors with traffic school.
People aren’t slowing down in WI because of gas prices, they’re slowing down because the roads are still full of giant potholes from last winter.
They won’t be filled until enough SmartCars are sold to fill all the giant sinkholes in our “roads.”
The real reason for the drop in fatalities is the high price of bourbon.
Darn that ethanol.
That must be the speed your car prefers.
A number of people I know have commented on the improved traffic.
On the freeways.
In Los Angeles.
I think this article, is identifying a real change. I know I’ve altered the way I think about driving. It’s getting ridiculous.
They are around here as well. Unfortunately, they haven't yet figured out the concept of "keep right unless passing".
Yeah, CharlesWayneCT, what kind of car do you drive?? Sounds like you're in Prius territory.
Myself, I'm not trashing my Escape - it's too practical. But I am considering augmenting my fleet with a Honda Fit or something of that nature. If only Honda would put about 20-30 more horespower in that little sled, I wouldn't be considering it - I'd be driving it already.
I have a counter-proposal to the dem 55-mph push:
We allocate speed limits to each lane, based on how many lanes a road has.
If it’s a limited access highway without other reasons to be concerned with speed (topography, bridges, etc), then set the speed limit for the “fast lane” to 70.
The next lane in, is 65.
If a road has three or more lanes in one direction, lane three is 60.
If it’s got four lanes or more in one direction, the remaining lanes are 55.
Trucks and slower cars, required to use the slower lanes.
It’s not quite as simple to put on a bumper sticker, but it would make a lot more sense.
That way, drivers in Prius cars going 53 mph, have a place to drive, without being such inconsiderate, brainless bozos.
I drove from Chattanooga, TN to Medina, OH and back over Memorial weekend. Traffic was very light, although I'm not sure if that was a result of less traffic or my choice of driving times. I've found that hitting the road at 4 AM is very beneficial.
That’s right. Reducing demand is not bringing down prices.
Maybe from drafting those semis
I'm not quite sure how much demand has actually been reduced. The move from larger cars to smaller ones effects the market over a slower time frame. I doubt that many people rushed to the dealer to trade their Ford Excursion for a Focus wagon, especially when they owed more on the Excursion than it is worth on the market. The trend is to move to higher-efficiency vehicles, but it is not a fast change.
My bet is that consumption is down about 1% from last year. Makes me wonder what prices would be if the increasing demand curve from 2 or 3 years ago was continuing.
I think carmakers have been caught completely unprepared for this, at least American carmakers.
It’s not like, there’s been any secret. This day has been clear to see, for the last decade. So what have carmakers done?
Build bigger. Build heavier. And now, suddenly, their entire market is evaporating under their tires - one is left wondering what they’ve been doing, in Detroit?
Three martini lunches?
It’s exasperating. Such incompetence, and it’s been rewarded. That’s the problem.
The automakers should be firing CEO’s. Not laying off factory workers.
I have a ‘97 Honda Civic, and I have same complaint. I live in a hilly area, and I wish it had a little more power. On the other hand, it’s paid for, cheap to insure, runs great, and gets about 35 mpg on those hills, so I really don’t have that much to complain about. ;-)
Until gas gets back to $2/gallon my days at 70 MPH are over...except in the rare occasion when I'm in a genuine hurry.
I got a ‘76 C20 with a 454. I think it takes a gallon just to start it.
uhhh....so motorists are driving a little slower because of the high gas prices, thinking they will use less gas by going ten miles from Point A to Point B, and doing it slower? Of course you use the same amount of gas going 40 MPH as you do going 50 MPH. At 50 MPH you just get there faster. Yikes.
There are more sheeple, I’ve observed, taking the underutilized public transportation. Where were they before? Oh, whining that they can’t (take public transportation), wishing that other would (take public transportation), ranting against it on FR, calling it Socialism, Communism, tyranny.
Mythbusters did a segment on windows down vs AC,you actually get better mileage with the windows up and the AC on. There is less wind resistance.
“Mythbusters did a segment on windows down vs AC,you actually get better mileage with the windows up and the AC on. There is less wind resistance.”
Turn off your lights! All car headlights are designed, specifically to act directly against your forward progress, all those photons zooming out at the speed of light.
A Prius (2004 hatchback version).
$4 per gallon hasn’t slowed the morons down in my area. Still driving around like there is no tomorrow. Speeding, tailgaiting, running red lights and making 6 trips to town in one day instead of consolidating trips. Like some people have a bottomless money pit.
That gives me a brilliant idea!
If I put a dozen Xenon high beam headlights on the back of Suburban, I can increase my MPG with the extra thrust...
Plus keep the tailgaters back a good distance...
That’s the case with highway driving, but not with stop-n-go.
Getting a heavy truck off the line with the A/C on when the light goes green is gas-intensive.
Let the gas price get to something like $6-7 a gallon where no one can afford to drive and the incidents will really go down.