Relaxing behind the wheel will save you money: Research shows the true costs of aggressive driving

Recent research shows that relaxed drivers save more money and fuel than aggressive drivers. In order to measure the impact speeding and slamming on brakes on fuel economy and consumption, the researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) reviewed other past studies, created a new vehicle energy model, and tested it on two same mid-sized sedans — one ran on electricity and the other ran on gasoline.

To differentiate fuel consumption, the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and the conventional gasoline vehicle were examined through driving tests at the lab’s National Transportation Research Center. The researchers specifically examined the limitations of the HEV when recapturing energy to recharge the battery during various levels of hard braking.

“The new vehicle energy model we created focused on the limitations of regenerative braking along with varying levels of driving-style aggressiveness to show that this could account for greater fuel economy variation in an HEV, compared to a similar conventional vehicle,” explained Thomas.

The study, published in the SAE International Journal of Fuels and Lubricants, revealed that aggressive drivers waste approximately $0.25 to $1 per gallon of fuel they buy. The gas mileage in light-duty vehicles is lower by around 10 to 20 percent in stop-and-go traffic, while gas mileage is down by about 15 to 30 percent at highway speeds.

The findings established a dataset of self-reported gas mileage values by drivers on, a website run by the United States’ government that informs consumers about fuel economy. Furthermore, the dataset suggested that conventional gasoline vehicles are less sensitive to driving style than HEVs.

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“Our findings added credence to the idea that an aggressive driving style does affect fuel economy probably more than people think,” said John Thomas, lead author of the study.

This study opens doors for more comprehensive studies about developing traffic flow by “smart” traffic control systems and autonomous vehicles.

6 Tips on a more fuel efficient driving

Your driving behavior and your car’s condition affect the amount of fuel you use. Here are some tips on saving gas and money, according to U.S. Department of Energy. (Related: Top 10 ways to burn less gas and save money on fuel.)

  1. Do not drive aggressively – Aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking, can reduce gas mileage by about 15 to 30 percent at highway speeds and around 10 to 40 percent in heavy traffic. Using driver feedback devices is also helpful. According to a study, they can assist the average driver enhance fuel economy by three percent and can help save fuel and improve gas mileage by around 10 percent. Moreover, being a calm or sensible driver is safer for you and your passengers, so not only can you save gas money, but emergency money as well.
  2. Monitor your speed limit – Gas mileage declines quickly at speeds above 50 miles per hour (mph), even if each vehicle gets to its optimal fuel economy at a different speed. Every five mph drive over 50 mph is similar to spending an extra $0.18 per gallon for gas.
  3. Do not put cargo on your roof – Putting cargo on your roof intensifies wind resistance and reduces fuel economy. A large cargo box on top of your vehicle’s roof can lower fuel economy by about two to eight percent in city drives, six to 17 percent in highways, and 10 to 25 percent at Interstate speeds or 65 mph to 75 mph.
  4. Lessen the items in your vehicle – Remove unnecessary things in your vehicle. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could lower your miles per gallon (MPG) by around one percent.
  5. Stop idling Turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked because about one-fourth to one-half gallon of fuel per hour is used when you idle, depending on the engine size and air conditioner use.
  6. Utilize cruise control – It is advised to use cruise control on the highway because it helps you drive at a consistent speed and will save gas.

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