All this hubbub over how much gas cars burn and the government won’t even synchronize traffic lights.
How much gas does that waste?
An interesting study was done by a Stanford University researcher a few years back. Its author – Victor Miller – estimated that the average car needlessly stops – and then goes – about 15 times every day as a result of such things as unsynchronized traffic lights.
When multiplied by the approximate number of cars driven each day in urban/suburban environments – which is about 60 million cars – the study determined that the fuel wastage of avoidable decelerating, idling and re-accelerating accounts for about 1.2 billion gallons of wasted fuel annually.
That is an ocean of gas – and a lot more gas than “saved” by elaborate, expensive and annoying technology such as the engine stop/start systems being grafted to almost all new cars as a desperation measure to meet the government’s fuel economy fatwas.
Much more fuel could be saved simply by keeping the cars moving. And – as a bonus – we’d also save time, an invaluable (and never renewable) resource.
But it never gets done. The lights remain generally unsynchronized. Cars lurch forward, briefly. Then stop – and wait. It is like a Soviet-era bread line queue. Rinse, repeat – times 60 million, every day.
Not only is gas (and time) wasted, but also brake pads and tires – and tires are made of oil (mostly). I wasn’t able to find a study which quantified how much needless wear and tear on tires can be laid at the feet of avoidable stop-and-go driving, but a sound guess is probably “a lot,” since most of the wear and tear occurs from the initial friction of getting going – and the friction of stopping.