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?
• 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.