High gas prices: Want to be a cool 'hypermiler'?

Gas is back at $4 a gallon, but Americans aren't slowing down yet. We have to make fuel efficiency cool. Here's how.

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    A BP station in downtown Chicago charges a jaw-dropping $4.79 a gallon for regular gas on May 3, 2011. Chicago has some of the highest gas prices in the nation.
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When gas hit $4 a gallon in 2008, Americans started driving less – and when they drove, they drove less aggressively. But today, with prices back at $4, demand doesn't seem to be declining, a Reuters analysis shows. Perhaps $4 just doesn't count as sticker shock anymore. Or maybe it's just too hard to break the bad driving habits – hard acceleration, sudden braking, speeding – that contribute to excessive oil consumption.

It's not just that we're constantly rushing from place to place. America's roadways are like middle school hallways: peer pressure is immense, and everyone ends up following the cool cars in the fast lane – or being pushed faster by bullies behind your bumper.

Activists have tried changing behavior by linking moderate driving to environmental well-being, patriotism, even the war on terror. It hasn't worked. Maybe it's time to make fuel efficiency cool. How?

• Hollywood could start by making a reality TV show featuring wives of NASCAR drivers competing to use the least gas during weekly errands. Think "The Biggest Loser" meets "Army Wives."

Progressive Insurance already offers drivers the opportunity to save money on insurance by installing a device that monitors driving habits. Couldn't state and local governments allow drivers to opt-in to a similar program that offers big tax refunds in exchange for efficient driving?

• Use the social-media stick and carrot: Surely it wouldn't be hard to create a driving app that automatically posts our gas mileage to all our Facebook friends. How many "likes" would you get if your Corolla hit 42.5 mpg this week?

PETA uses naked models to advocate for animal rights. Could AAA do the same to create awareness for proper tire pressure?

There's already a group of Americans who push their cars to the limits of efficiency. They're called "hypermilers." And they can squeeze every mile out of a gallon of gas, sometimes doubling mpgs to 40, 50, or even 70. Monitor reporter Mark Clayton profiled them back in 2008. Here's a list of their basic tips.

I used some of these hypermiling tips myself last weekend, when my car's gas needle was hovering at "E" with the nearest station 8 miles away. You'd be surprised just how far you can coast in neutral.

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