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Guide to eco-friendly driving


Owe Carter



Guide to eco-friendly driving

As awareness grows of our environmental impact, so too do ways to lessen the harm caused – including eco-friendly driving. Also known as eco-safe driving, this is a way to drive which reduces negative effects on air quality and the environment in general.

Not only does driving in this way lower fuel consumption and emissions, but it also saves money. Win-win.

But how do you drive in an eco-safe fashion? We’re glad you asked…

So what exactly is eco-safe driving, and why’s it so great?

Eco-safe driving is a recognised driving style. Compared to regular driving, it’s safer, more economical, and has a lower environmental impact.

And it had numerous upsides. Firstly, smooth use of the controls reduced wear and tear of the car. It’s also more fuel efficient, and helps to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. As such, it benefits both the environment and your bank balance.

It’s also safer, as reading the road accurately should have the net effect of fewer accidents. Not only is this a benefit in itself, but it should help keep repair and insurance costs down.

Did you know? You get feedback on your eco-safe driving ability if you take your driving test in Northern Ireland.

Ok, so how do I become an eco-friendly driver?

While there are a few techniques you can practise, the two main things to master are control of the vehicle and forward planning.

Ace control of the vehicle

This is all about smooooooooth use of the car’s controls. Rapid acceleration and harsh braking are both inefficient, and will lead to greater wear and tear. Get in the swing of accelerating progressively, and braking gently. And try not to leave the braking until too late.

Also, higher gears are more efficient, so try to maximise their use. When accelerating, shift up into higher gears sooner rather than later. Likewise, when slowing down, delay going into lower gears and let the car’s momentum do its thing.

To take this to pro level, minimise your use of the brake pedal. For example, if you can see traffic lights or a junction ahead, ease off the gas and let the car slow itself down, rather than braking harshly just before the line.

Nail your forward planning

This is all about readying yourself for hazards which might occur on the road. By planning ahead and reading the road, you can act in good time if anything crops up.

Know your stuff: Knowing the principles of defensive driving will help you to become a more eco-conscious driver, as well as a safer one.

If you anticipate upcoming traffic or road conditions, you’re less likely to need to brake harshly, or take evasive action.

Not only this, but you’re using the car in the most efficient way. Driving like this makes full use of the vehicle’s momentum, engine braking and torque. It’s like you’re at one with the car.

So how can you improve your forward planning?

  • Be aware of your environment, and work on your hazard perception.

  • Keep a safe distance from vehicles in front – which also improves your visibility.

  • Don’t rely on the brake pedal, but make use of engine braking.

  • Switch off your engine when it’s smart to do so – such as when traffic’s at a standstill.

You can also improve your planning when not behind the wheel. Take things to the next level by planning your routes ahead of time, avoiding peak times and areas prone to congestion. Never drive past a school just before nine or after three on a weekday, for example.

Other top eco-safe tips

Here are some more pro pointers to make your driving as eco-friendly as possible:

  • Ask if you really need to make the journey by car. Look, we love driving. It’s even in our name. But we also realise that sometimes it’s more efficient to walk, hop on a bike or public transport – especially for short journeys. Often driving may not necessarily save time, but will have the most environmental impact. So think about when it’s best to ditch the wheels.

  • Keep your car in good nick. Having a well-maintained vehicle is ultimately more economical and efficient. Check your tyre pressure regularly, for example. If your tyres are over or under-inflated, you’ll burn through more fuel.

  • Keep your car light. Don’t cart a load of unnecessary weight around. If you can, take off bike racks, roof racks or luggage boxes when you’re not using them. This makes the car lighter, and also reduces air resistance.

  • Use cruise control on flat roads. Maintaining a constant speed uses less fuel than constantly accelerating and braking. So if you have cruise control, put it to good use – especially on motorways. Bear in mind that it’s less efficient to use it on steeper gradients though.

  • Reverse into spaces, then drive out forwards. You have better visibility driving forwards out of parking spaces, so reverse in – or drive through to the far spot if there are two free that face each other. It’s also more efficient to do this, as reversing when the engine’s cold burns more fuel. Good to know!

Ace your driving score: Watch your green score

When using the Driverly app, you build up a driving score – and your green score is part of this. So being a smooth driver will help. You’ll also see your points go up if you don’t burn through fuel, and avoid braking too harshly. Essentially, being an eco-friendly driver should help to keep your driving score (and the planet) healthy.

And if you want to see eco-friendly driving in action, check out this eco-driving video from Advance Driving School.

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