I drove from Berkeley to Big Sur this week, determined not to go faster than 60 mph. I had just paid for my first $4 gallon of gas and it freaked me out. I just can’t imagine spending $60 every week or so to fill my 15 gallon tank. And I know that one great way to save gas is to slow down — if you’re used to driving 75 and you dial it back to 60, you’ll conserve about 15% of your fuel — but I’ve been stubborn.
Driving slowly doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve received speeding tickets in several states and talked myself out of many more citations than I’ve taken away. I’ve been to traffic school twice. Of course all of that was before I turned twenty-five, and now I’m about as far away from my twenties as we are from $1 per gallon gas. These days I’m usually content to roll along in the middle lane, but that still means traveling at the typical speed of highway traffic, which bears no relation to fuel conservation guidelines.
Moving at a poky 60 mph on Highway 880, I was pretty sure I’d be killed before I got to San Jose, whether squashed by a speeding semi or taken out by a frustrated late-morning commuter caught behind my cruise-controlled Subaru. All the way to Watsonville, I felt like I was wearing some sort of reverse 3D glasses, or that I had fallen under a spell that held me in place while the rest of the world rapidly sucked itself into the distance. If I released the cruise control for even a few moments, I’d look down and find myself pushing 75 again.
Clearly, slowing down is going to require tremendous concentration, as well as some combination of courage and foolishness. But I’m committed. Speeding is just another habit; there’s rarely somewhere I need to get so badly, so quickly, that it’s worth wasting money and fuel. So the next time you’re gritting your teeth at a dark blue Subaru doing 60 in the center lane, it might not be somebody’s great-grandma. It might be me.