Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Why DO we speed?


I was just taking a look at the quietnorth blog which has an entry to a Talk of the Nation program about "Psychology Behind the Wheel: Why do we speed?" That's a topic near and dear to my heart since one of my 101 Ways to Help Birds is to "Drive at the slowest speed that is safe, courteous, and convenient." This week on Birdchat people have been discussing the disappearance of Common Nighthawks--there are many contributing factors, one of which is that the species is vulnerable to colliding with cars, both when roosting on gravel roads and when attracted to insects in headlight beams. Cars also kill a disproportionate number of owls, especially Short-eared and Barn, and Red-headed Woodpeckers. A constant new supply of roadkill is subsidizing a crow population that is already higher than natural. And driving fast squanders energy and contributes to pollution, including CO2 emissions that exacerbate climate change. I wish most cars showed at every step of the way gas mileage the way my Prius does--that screen serves as a constant reminder that our driving habits directly affect fuel consumption. The US EPA has a webpage about driving habits and fuel economy. It states,
While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
Slowing down saves energy, saves wildlife, and saves lives.

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