The Toronto Star: Drive Smart, Drive Green

Means and Ends
Jody Ness

Ease up and take pressure off you and environment.

My 13-year old friend, Sarah loves to roller-blade she is also far ahead of me when it comes to environmental issues. Recently she questioned whether my test-driving cars all the time wasn’t potentially an eco-problem.

Add to this the growing concern, especially in California, over car emissions. With these thoughts in mind, I turned my attention to the emerging topic of eco-friendly driving.

After much discussion with him, I’m passing along some suggestions offered to me by Carlos Tomas, founder and chief instructor of Shifters. The Driver Education Centre, the Toronto-based school for better driving and specializing in manual transmissions.

Tomas’s hypothesis is that if we all drove more environmentally consciously, we wouldn’t need to worry about legislating vehicle emission standards. We could make a bigger difference by just driving smarter.

Here’s some food for eco-thought:

1) Keep the vehicle in motion. Overcoming friction of a stopped vehicle spends more energy than gradually increasing the speed of a vehicle in motion. Obviously, with a red light or a stop sign, we are required to come to a full stop. But there are lots of times when slowing is sufficient to reach the next stage for the resumption of traffic speed. Stop-and-start traffic doesn’t need to be so. For example if you are looking ahead and see that traffic is stopped you should:

a) continue your speed until the last possible moment, then jam on the brakes, and lurch to a halt to inspect the serial number of the muffler in front of you, or;

b) anticipate traffic flow and let off the gas early, coast gently and brake gradually, maintaining a safe and appropriate distance between you and the vehicle in front?

If you guessed b), try putting it into practice. If you guessed a) read on, then try again.

2) Use fluid, gentle acceleration and braking whenever possible. Tearing out from a red light not only wastes fuel, but rubber too. There are obviously a lot of Toronto drivers who can afford to replace tires more frequently than I can. I wish I could understand what inspires some drivers to peel away from red lights at warp 10, leaving behind metres of Michelin, patches of Pirelli, and gobs of Goodyear. Whatever your reason, stop and think about it. A good tire costs say $100.-150. each. To produce a new tire takes the equivalent of a barrel of oil. Does it make sense to waste both money and natural resources?

3) Check your passenger’s knuckles. This is often a good indicator of your driving ability. Unless your passenger is in a coma, they usually react violently to sudden starts and stops.

White knuckles, pushing imaginary brake pedals, and reaching for the grab handles or” sky hooks” are usually signs that your passenger is not comfortable, in my personal case, vomiting is often a tell-tale symptom of motion sickness as a result of jerky driving.

I fondly remember being driven down a particular twisting stretch of California’ Pacific Coast Highway by former Formula 1 champion Jackie Stewart, and not once worrying whether I would have to embarrass myself by requesting a puke-stop. Now that’s smooth.

4) Smile. Enjoy your driving experience. Whether you’ve invested $10,000, $50,000, or $100,000 in a vehicle, surely it’s more than just transportation. Otherwise you could take the TTC.
Why not enjoy your vehicle? Heck, it’s got a stereo, a CD player, cup holders, seats that adjust in hundreds of ways to ensure a comfortable position. But, do pay attention to the traffic flow.

5) Avoid “hurry up and wait”. Also known as “sit ’n’ stew.” Wouldn’t you rather be driving, albeit slowly, than sitting completely still, only to have to sit at the next synchronized red light all over again?
So would your car!

6) Practice winter driving all year long. Good summer driving is really only practice for good winter driving. If we used the same caution required to slippery conditions all the time, we’d not only be driving safer, but more economically.

7) Give your clutch a break. While sitting at a stop light, shift to neutral and let out the clutch. Don’t even touch it or the gear shift until it’s time to move out. This saves wear and tear on your clutch and entire transmission system.

8) Drive only a much as you need to. Try to combine errands to the grocery store, beer store, and dry cleaners into one trip. Consider alternative “wheeled” transportation form time to time.
My lawyer confided to me recently that he often ”blades” between downtown appointments. Or how about biking for a change of pace? If status is important to you, check out BMW’s latest entry into the personal mobility market – a mountain bike. (I’m not kidding!)

9) Go Cruisin’. Where traffic conditions permit, use cruise or speed control to maintain a constant speed. You’ll notice a big difference in gas consumption over extended distances.
Save gas. Save wear and tear on your vehicle. Save money. Enjoy your driving and get there safely,” advises Tomas.
So for Sarah’s sake, I tried it. On my first effort, I manage to squeeze 600 km out of a tank of gas that normally goes 500. My wallet, my blood pressure and the environment all say “Thanks Carlos.”

For additional information please refer to MEDIA print article entitled On fear and loathing of stick-shifts: by Bill Taylor and Identify threat and act to avoid mishaps by Carlos Tomas.

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About the author

Carlos Tomas

Carlos Tomas is President and Founder of Shifters, Canada's first manual transmission driving school. He has taught standard-shift with Young Drivers of Canada, worked with disabled drivers, and even instructed instructors. 

Known for his extreme patience, Carlos helps you how understand the clutch, gets you up-to-speed (all puns intended) quickly, and inspires, with  and an unmatched comfort level that puts you at ease from the start.

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