IMPORTANT:New Saskatchewan traffic safety legislation is anticipated to come into effect at the end of June. Current content on this page will be updated with the changes. Learn more about what's changing, and what the consequences are for drivers.
Safety should be your number one concern every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle. The good news is that practising fuel-efficient driving techniques not only improves road safety, it also reduces fuel consumption and cuts exhaust emissions that contribute to climate change and urban smog. Depending on your driving habits and how often you drive, these basic techniques and useful tips could save you hundreds of dollars a year in fuel and maintenance costs:
- It is both safer and more fuel efficient to maintain a steady speed on a road. Accelerate smoothly when passing or merging with faster traffic and avoid hard braking. European tests have shown that aggressive driving, including frequent rapid acceleration and hard braking, can increase fuel consumption by approximately 40%.
- Drive at the posted speed limit. Lowering your highway cruising speed from 120 km/h to 100 km/h will reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%.
- Plan your trips to combine errands and to avoid traffic jams, steep hills, road construction, etc. Combining a number of short trips into one longer one allows your engine and drivetrain to reach peak operating temperature, which is not possible on trips of less than 5 km. Avoiding trouble spots shortens your travel time and reduces unnecessary idling.
- If you are driving a vehicle with a manual transmission, learn how to use it properly for maximum fuel savings. A tachometer can help you shift the transmission at the most fuel-efficient engine speeds (the owner's manual will indicate these speeds).
- If you have cruise control, use it for highway driving to maintain a constant speed. The exception is on hilly terrain, where it's a good idea to allow the vehicle's speed to drop slightly going uphill and then let gravity help you build up speed again (to a safe level) going down the other side.
- In summer, minimize your use of air conditioning. Operating an air conditioner in hot weather can increase fuel consumption by more than 20% in city driving. A more fuel-efficient option for staying cool is to open a window. However, at high way speeds, use your car's flow-through ventilation - open windows and sunroofs increase aerodynamic drag, which makes the engine work harder and consume more fuel. If you must use your vehicle's air conditioning, avoid running it continuously. Shut it off after the interior is cool or set the controls to a comfort level that allows the system to cycle.
- Check tire pressure at least once a month when the tires are cold (i.e., the vehicle has been stationary for at least three hours or has not been driven more than 2 km). If you have to drive more than 2 km to add air, check the tires before you leave and then add the amount of air that is missing from this reading. Inflate the tires to the recommended pressure, usually indicated on the car door, glove compartment or in the owner's manual. With proper tire inflation, your car will burn less fuel and be safer to drive. A vehicle with tires that are under-inflated by a total of 10 psi increases fuel consumption by 5%.
- Use a block heater in the winter to warm the engine oil and make cold starts easier on your engine components. Your vehicle's oil does not freeze when the temperature dips below 0°C, but it does get much thicker. This means your engine has to work harder and use more fuel. Use a timer to switch the block heater on two hours before you plan t o drive. Proper use of a block heater can improve your vehicle’s overall fuel economy by as much as 10%. Still, don’t leave your block heater on overnight or your energy savings will disappear in a higher electricity bill.
- Follow the vehicle manufacturer's recommended operating procedures and maintenance schedule in your owner's manual. Regular maintenance such as oil and filter changes will not only prevent early degeneration of your vehicle’s components, it will also keep them operating at their most fuel-efficient level. A clogged air filter can increase fuel consumption by up to 10%. Regular maintenance will keep your vehicle operating safely, save you money and, at the same time, help the environment.
- Remote car starters are handy on cold winter mornings, but don't start your car too soon. In most driving conditions, today’s modern engines need less warm-up time even on cold mornings. Also, allowing your car to idle too long wastes gas and produces unnecessary exhaust emissions.
- Idling for more than 10 seconds, except in traffic, wastes more fuel than stopping your engine and restarting again. At the end of the day, stopping unnecessary idling will benefit the environment and save you money.