From 83 MPH to 55, a journey into the slow lane.

Why?

I began a competition with myself in January 2022 when I was bored and driving. Typically, I use this time to catch up on calls, but no one was available. As a Realtor in the Nashville area, you can imagine the miles I put on my car, Mr. Zippy. I drive a 2015 Chevy Sonic LTZ (damn thing is turbocharged). And yes, I name all my cars, and the turbo reference is to a song. A gold star to those who can name it.

According to the internal computer, Mr. Zippy is fairly efficient, 30 miles to the gallon. Not too bad, but I thought I could do better – Would a monetary reason change my driving habits? It must be significant enough to slow down or even worth it when comparing the time saved. This will be an interesting experiment.

A Bit of History

I learned to drive in Atlanta, GA, the superspeedway of the south. In the 1970s, the speed limit didn’t matter. Fifty-five meant seventy and applied to back roads. The interstates were worse, chaotic and in my father’s words on my first trip through downtown Atlanta, “this is where the big boys play.” The first time behind the wheel I was fifteen years old. I learned to drive on a 1969 Cadillac, almost the largest car on the road outside of the Continental. I learned, made mistakes, avoided catastrophes, and soaked up education along the road systems of malfunction junction, spaghetti junction, all leading home along Stone Mountain Freeway.

Committing

Commitment

Parameters: Slow down from 83 MPH (speed limit 70) to 55 to 60 on the interstate and/or keep my RPM’s at 2000 and below; I have to adjust my time and leave thirty minutes earlier depending on my destination. Will it going to be worth it? I don’t think so, but I’m determined to get the facts.

Day One

When I drive on the interstate, there is nothing more upsetting than to be going 80 plus miles an hour, attempt to pass someone, only to find a law-abiding citizen driving in the fast lane, doing 60 miles an hour. Move!!! Slower traffic keep right like the signs say. If they make the mistake and drive in the left lane, when someone comes up behind them, merge to the right – this is understood and a courtesy to other drivers. It may be unwritten, but it’s there people!!!

Let’s get the facts first. The posted speed limit is the maximum speed you drive under the law, and in Tennessee, it averages 70 MPH on the interstates. Then, within the limits of a city, for example, Nashville, reduces to 55 MPH. I thought the minimum was fourty miles an hour, but in my research, I found the law read minimum was 55 MPH in the fast lane. So, imagine my surprise when people would get angry when they were behind me when I drove 55 miles per hour in the right-hand/slow lane. First off, it’s damn hard to drive 55 when you’ve been doing over 80 all your life. The struggle is real. My impatience threatened to explode like an angry tunnel of magma looking for a vent. I’m a strong person, but it takes everything I have to maintain control and remain within the parameters of my experiment. Then, throw in road rage, angry drivers, and heavy traffic, it’s everything I can do to not give up, and stop the stupid experiment, my time and sanity is worth more than a few gallons of gas. But, I just can’t quit even when other drivers would use hand gestures, throw the middle finger or throw their arms up in frustration, tailgate me as if it would make me speed up, then pass me and stare like I was an imbecile. I mentioned this to son #3 who told me they didn’t look at me like I was stupid, they were impatient because they think I’m old.

Wait, what? Old? Noooooo!

Russia Invades Ukraine

My heart goes out to Ukraine. I stand in solidarity with their fight and admire the people standing up for their independence.

Even though the United States acquires less than 3% of our oil from Russia, our gas prices began to rise and as of this week, projections are that it will possibly hit $4.75 a gallon as it tops out in Tennessee. Who is responsible for this? People who attempt to anticipate the future gas futures. Ugh, two of my sons drive diesel, their gas is well over $5.00, not to mention the hero truck drivers. Write to your elected officials, tell anyone who’ll listen. Reach out to the big companies and complain. They are profiting off the backs of hard-working Americans. Okay, okay, off of my soapbox.

As a Realtor° in Nashville, I drive a lot! Then, my mother had hip surgery and lives in Loganville, GA. I would drive from Nashville to Loganville, a four-and-a-half-hour trip door to door to help on the weekends. That was before Chattanooga became so congested. It’s now a six-hour drive so when I decided to slow down, I struggled with the additional time and I became anxious because I knew I could save thirty minutes driving over eighty rather than 55-60. What the hell was I doing this for, just some point I attempted to prove? Sigh. Yes, I’m not a quitter so I continued and then gas prices began to rise. To my surprise, not many people have slowed down to save gas. I suppose that our time has become more valuable than saving a couple of dollars at the pump. I agree, but I’m not quitting until I have an answer. I’m also considering a ditty for my back window:

When Gas is High

I drive Slow

Cause I’m a Realtor

On the Go!

Maybe they will smile rather than get mad at my speed.

Conclusion

It’s the middle of May, and my experiment is complete. I have slowed down for five months, and have increased my average MPG from 30.4 to 35.7. With this comes added time to get to my destination. On average, I add an additional 15 minutes to my commute around town. As I mentioned, my weekend trips to Loganville were challenging due to Chattanooga traffic. I found it added anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours for the longer trips, but I left on a Friday afternoon and returned on a Monday, heavy travel days.

My Driving Habits Now

I have not returned to my 83 mph interstate travel speed as I have found it’s refreshing not to have to watch for the police. And, if you were wondering, I have gotten three speeding violations throughout my driving career, not too bad but expensive. I’ve not received a citation for speed in over twenty years. I’ve been lucky. I try to keep my RPMs at 2000 or less, and I continue to improve my miles per gallon. I am curious to see how high it’ll go – could I hit 36 MPG? I will keep you posted!

Be safe out there and remember to have patience for those driving slow in the slow lane.

As always, thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the bookstores!

~Kolin

3 thoughts on “From 83 MPH to 55, a journey into the slow lane.

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  1. Great write up on speed vs savings and sanity. I have changed my driving habits to a slower, more defensive, style and have found my anxiety is lower and my attitude is better.

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