Hypermiling came into vogue around the middle of the last decade as gas prices rose and drivers looked to get more fuel economy out of their cars. Simply put, hypermiling means driving for maximum fuel efficiency. However, some hypermilers take it to such an extreme that they’re labeled “competitive hypermilers” and advocate driving techniques that are downright dangerous. So if you ever want to incorporate hypermiling into your own driving, the following are some of its most dangerous techniques you’ll want to avoid.
The one you hear most about, especially if you’re around a truck driver, is drafting. Hypermilers will find a nice big truck to get behind and draft just like a race car at the Daytona Speedway.
There are a couple of problems with this. First, to get close enough to actually save fuel you have to tailgate. This angers the driver in front of you and puts you at risk if the truck suddenly brakes. If you blink, your reaction time’s gone. The other problem involves tire blowouts. Occasionally trucks do suffer blowouts, and you don’t want to be there when all that debris is flying at high speed into your windshield.
A slight variation on drafting is side-drafting where, instead of behind a truck, you coast alongside and get a slight aerodynamic boost. However, the problem of tire blowouts remains as flying debris can penetrate your side windows even easier than your windshield.
Another technique you want to avoid is coasting with the engine off. Oftentimes, competitive hypermilers will accelerate to a desirable speed and then shut the engine off while coasting. They also cut the engine at the top of a hill and then coast “naked” down to the bottom.
Driving with your engine powered off is not safe. It can adversely affect your steering, brakes, and needless to say, your acceleration. If you’re ever in a near-accident, your options to avoid will be severely limited.
Not all hypermiling techniques occur while on the road. Some involve prepping your vehicle before driving, and one such technique is over-inflating your tires. Over-inflated tires cause less tire surface to touch the road, and in turn causes less friction and higher fuel efficiency.
This comes at a cost, however, as less surface on the road means less traction and a higher likelihood you’ll skid in wet or icy conditions. Over-inflated tires also increase wear and shorten the life of the tire.
Brakeless Right Turns
Traditionally making a turn on a city street means slowing down, but not for extreme hypermilers. In particular, they advocate brakeless right turns.
This makes for dangerously fast turns that are a hazard to pedestrians and also pose traction problems on wet or oily streets. And some hypermilers rule out left turns altogether as they usually require a full stop. Instead, they take three right turns and make themselves even more of a risk.
Red Light Coasting
One last technique hypermilers use is coasting through red lights. Just don’t. This is highly illegal, and since nobody’s perfect, you might miss a pedestrian or car just outside your peripheral vision.
Hypermiling can be fun and eco-friendly, but only if used with common sense. Avoid dangerous techniques like those mentioned above and concentrate on safe, fuel-saving techniques like driving within the speed limit, using cruise control, and anticipating the traffic lights and traffic ahead of you. This way you’ll save fuel and not put yourself or someone else in the hospital.
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