June 18, 2014

Why Hypermiling Drivers Might Put Other Drivers At Risk

As the cost of gasoline continues to rise across the country, many drivers are resorting to drastic measures to reduce their fuel consumption. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to hypermiling, which is a set of driving practices that minimize gas consumption, allowing drivers to go farther on less fuel. However, hypermilers sometimes use potentially dangerous techniques to reduce gas consumption, and overall, their tactics might increase the average cost of automobile insurance nationwide. By driving more safely, hypermilers might be able to get cheap car insurance policies that are well worth the extra few cents at the pump.

One of the most dangerous yet common techniques is to trail a large vehicle as closely as possible. This cuts wind resistance for the trailing car, so the vehicle's engine does not need to work as hard to maintain speed. Hypermilers often trail large trucks to cut wind resistance as dramatically as possible, but truck drivers cannot see the vehicles trailing them. This can lead to serious accidents on highways. Some hypermilers also turn their vehicles' engines off when trailing semis to reduce "idle" gas consumption. Turning an engine off and coasting does improve fuel efficiency slightly. However, this practice also turns off power steering and puts the driver at great risk. In an emergency, hypermiling drivers rarely have time to turn their vehicles back on and regain control before hitting road obstructions and other vehicles.

Tailgating and turning a vehicle off while in motion are both illegal techniques, and a traffic citation can greatly increase a driver's automobile insurance premiums. This increase often drastically outweighs any savings that a hypermiling driver might get at the pump. Unfortunately, hypermilers do not always do the math and end up with high premiums as a result of a traffic citation–or worse, they are involved in serious accidents. To stay safe, drivers should avoid large trucks' blind spots and never turn off their vehicles on the road for any reason, especially to save a few cents on gas.

Not all hypermiling techniques are dangerous. Many hypermilers avoid using their air conditioners, which cuts gas consumption significantly without putting the vehicle's occupants in danger. Drivers can also save money by visiting the pump early in the morning, because the gasoline will be more compacted after cooling off for the night than it will be in the hot afternoon, so the fueling car will get farther on the same amount of gas. Drivers should also avoid "topping off," as this wastes gasoline, and should drive defensively rather than aggressively. By using these techniques, drivers can limit their gas expenditures without putting their cheap car insurance policies at risk.