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Driving

his article was written by Simon Gear.

There is a craze in Japan and the States called hypermiling.  Petrol heads with too much time on their hands, and I suspect, not enough female energy in their lives, compete with each other and themselves to have the lowest possible fuel consumption in their cars.

Out with the aircon (literally – those units are heavy), closed windows, coasting on the downhills and carefully managed acceleration on the ups.  Even the radio, and if at all possible, the lights stay off for fear of drawing additional power from the engine.  Some of the more lunatic followers look for trucks to slipstream to cut down on their wind resistance. Every action in the car is one of caution and care and conservatism.  Not really a sport for your average South African male, then.

We South Africans don’t like our cars, we love ‘em.  We hopelessly over-identify with what brand of metal box ferries us to the office and, as a result, any amateur can pick out the Beemer lover from the bakkie driver without even looking at what’s parked in the driveway.  The odds of converting this community to 1000cc town cars, or better yet, the bus, is somewhere between nothing and no chance at all.

In addition, you don’t often hear visitors to our land praising the quiet, shy and retiring way that we go about our business on the traffic. Every green light is a challenge to win the race to the next intersection.  We tailgate the guy in front of us and swerve onto the shoulder to let through the chap behind.  We drive with the sort of boundless aggression and enthusiasm that ensures our place at the top of the world’s traffic fatality tables worldwide.

So how do we get our manic, gung ho population to start conserving petrol and driving in a greener manner?  As with so many things, the answer is in our pockets.  For better or worse, the country’s traffic law enforcement have gone back to the good old days of hiding behind bushes with speed cameras in order to bolster their coffers.  This, of course, irritates the living daylights out of South Africa’s drivers who see it as cheating somehow. But have you noticed how everyone drives a little slower these days?

And with that easy driving comes a raft of other effects. Driving your car at under 60km/h dramatically improves fuel economy.  Not only are you within your car’s top performance envelope, but you’re also less likely to be stopping and starting as you accelerate and brake through the traffic. So you’re saving money in fines, and again in petrol.  And less petrol means less pollution and a more environmentally friendly commute. Also, slower drivers are shown to be happier and less stressed which probably means that your chance of engaging in South Africa’s other national sport – dying prematurely of heart disease   - goes down as well.  It all just goes to show that even if you couldn’t care less for the planet, with a little self care, you too can save the world.



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