I guess that we all, at times, get stuck in a bumper-to-bumper convoy where the car at the front is someone who, arguably, quite rightly, has chosen a lower cruising speed than suits most of those stuck behind. On roads where opportunities to overtake are few, and when some of those in the convoy have no interest in doing so anyway, it’s best to just sit back and philosophically accept the situation. It’s rarely as bad as it might be, as the front car often peels off somewhere and the rest of us put on a bit of speed, and space out more safely again. Sometimes, though, such a situation can exist for a good part of your journey, and it’s too easy to lose concentration, which for me is the main irritation in such circumstances. So I often try to put more extreme eco-driving principles into practice, like almost totally eliminating braking (keeping well back from the vehicle in front of you – also allowing space for anyone overtaking from behind to slot into), and choosing my gears for optimum economy. It’s surprising how low the correct gear for maximum torque can often be, when you’re trickling along at 35 to 40mph, as you might on fairly twisty roads, the tachometer shows that fourth and fifth gears in a six-speed ‘box are quite often where you really should be.
Whilst you’re in this situation, or predicament, and if you do sit back and relax, rather than maybe attempting to just gain one or two places in such a queue, you’ll find that you’re actually travelling very economically indeed. In dropping from a typical average of, say, 45mph down to 35mph, if you are in the right gears, you’ll see amazing figures appearing on your mpg readouts. If you also keep an eye on your average speed (it’s displayed on the screens of many cars, along with mpg figures), you’ll find it surprising how little it drops, and it’s well worth taking the trouble to check the figure, because it’s quite an eye-opener. Other than when you are doing open road and motorway driving, your average road speed is unlikely to check out at much over 40mph, and 30 to 35mph is quite a typical average for urban and suburban commuting, shopping trips, and driving to the nearest big town for some purpose or another. You may hit 40 to 50mph on parts of such trips, but slowing down to negotiate roundabouts and traffic lights, and parking up, particularly in a multi-storey car park, drags down the speed figures amazingly. If you average 35mph on such journeys, then you are doing very well.
So, actually choosing a lower cruising speed on the faster parts of your journey yourself, the same as that sometimes imposed on you by other slower traffic, as above, is an option. It makes very little difference to your journey times, and yet it can save you quite a lot in fuel costs, if you choose to go that way. Drop your A-road cruising speed from 60 down to 50mph, and you can expect to see trip figures of 50 to 55mpg climb by as much 10mpg, meaning a 20 per cent drop in fuel costs. Dare we say it, it also means a twenty per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions, which we are all supposed to be making a more serious effort to reduce, all in the cause of global climate control!
What about obstruction of other traffic though, if you choose to drop your cruising speed like that? Speed limits are not intended as recommended cruising speeds, and no legal obligation exists, or any moral one, to drive up to any speed limit. Keep well to the left and leave plenty of space in front for any overtaking vehicles, and you should keep a clear conscience. Sometimes though, you may collect another slower driver behind you, positioned fairly close, yet irritatingly showing no inclination to overtake. That makes any attempts at overtaking from further back difficult, and possibly dangerous, and in that case you might succumb to the pressure to speed up, but the choice, of course, is yours.