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Commuter Column: Running on Empty

Kathleen Joyce

As most of you know by now, most of my inspiration for these columns comes from recent experiences. I’m usually pretty good with keeping my gas tank full, this week I was driving in the snow and my car started to ding, letting me know that it needed fuel. Uh-oh, what do I do? It’s two-thirty in the morning, snowing, and I need to get gas? I was also traveling by highway, so the nearest gas station around was unknown. But as I continued on my thirty-minute drive home, I started to calm down. Just because the little light goes on, it doesn’t mean you need to get gas right then and there.

Many cars now can tell the driver exactly how many more miles until the gas runs out. Well, mine doesn’t exactly do that, so I drove a bit slower than usual and even put on the cruise control, since it’s an empty road at two-thirty in the morning. I got home okay without a trip to the gas station. I immediately looked it up and found out according to, the driver can travel an additional 30 to 40 miles after the gas light is on. Many car companies use the gas light as a warning for drivers to get their gas soon and are hopeful drivers find it as a comfort. Because you don’t want your car to all of a sudden stop moving in the middle of the L.I.E.

There are other ways you can even preserve gas in your car if the gas meter is running low. The obvious one is slowing down your speed. This reduces 7% of your fuel if you slow down a mere 5 mph.  Another way is to drive smoothly. Slamming your brakes, swerving (which I don’t recommend), and doing different speeds on the road all uses more gas than needed. The weight of your car is another factor. The car has to work harder when there’s unnecessary weight involved. So if you’re a hoarder with too much stuff, get rid of it.  Many websites have said that turning off your car during a long stoplight helps the fuel. But in this weather, we’ll ignore that one. Warming up your car in the morning is stated to add more pollution and uses more gas than can be used for actual driving. But for snow purposes, you might still want to warm up your vehicle.

To avoid a side-road show because your car has run out of gas, listen to your car and get gas when needed. With this tough economy and high gas prices, many people are pinching gas costs in every way. So be smart and decide when getting gas is best for you. Safe driving everybody!

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