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In honor of Earth Day 2011, AAA offers five ways to drive 'Greener'

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y. - With Earth Day 2011 celebrations this week, AAA offers drivers some tips on how they can drive 'greener' and save some money in the process.

"Many Americans are trying to make more environmentally conscious decisions, and that is especially top of mind this week as we near Earth Day 2011," said Ed Welsh, AAA New York's Central Region General Manager. "There are a lot of things we can do to lessen our environmental impact behind the wheel while saving money as well."

1. Imagine Eggs Under the Pedals

The easiest and most effective way to drive 'greener' is to simply change one's driving style. Instead of making quick starts and sudden stops, go easy on the gas and brake pedals. If there is a red light ahead, ease off the gas and coast up to it rather than waiting until the last second to brake. Once the light turns green, accelerate gently rather than making a 'jack rabbit' start.

"Imagine there are eggs beneath your gas and brake pedals. You want to apply pressure gently to the pedals in order to avoid breaking the egg," explained Welsh. "Changing your driving style can have a tremendous impact on the amount of gas your car uses, making it not just a 'greener' choice, but one that can really save you money with today's high fuel prices."

The U.S. Department of Energy reports aggressive driving can reduce a car's fuel economy up to 33 percent.

2. Just Slow Down

Getting to a destination faster does not necessarily mean getting there 'greener.' The fuel efficiency of most vehicles decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

"When AAA says slow down, that doesn't mean becoming a moving roadblock on the highway. Safety should remain paramount. However, simply driving the speed limit or a few miles per hour less can reduce fuel consumption up to 23 percent," noted Welsh.

Each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

3. Keep Your Car In Shape

A car that's not properly maintained can produce more exhaust emissions and consume more fuel than necessary. "Dust off the owner's manual and locate the manufacturer's maintenance schedule inside. Making sure all recommended maintenance is up to date will help your car run with optimum efficiency," said Welsh.

AAA recommends having any vehicle problems, including illuminated warning lights, addressed by a qualified, trained technician. Minor adjustments and repairs can effect emissions and fuel economy by up to four percent, while more serious problems, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can reduce gas mileage as much as 40 percent.

To help motorists find reliable, high-quality vehicle service, AAA has inspected and approved nearly 8,000 auto repair shops across the country. To locate a nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, visit AAA.com/Repair.

4. Choose a 'Greener' Car

When shopping for a new car, consider the wide variety of 'green' vehicle options now available from automakers. AAA recently released its 2011 list of top picks for 'green' vehicles available to consumers.

"There are a number of 'green' car options on the market today. Assess your personal transportation needs to determine which is best for you. It could be a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle. Or, it might turn out to be a new model with a high-tech internal combustion engine that gets great gas mileage," said Welsh.

AAA's list of its top picks for 'green' vehicles is available at AAA.com/News

Even those not in the market for a newer vehicle may have the option of choosing a 'greener' car. If a household has multiple vehicles, choose to drive the 'greener' model more frequently when running errands or making other trips.

5. Think and Plan Ahead

Think ahead before heading out to the store or another errand. Determine all the places you need to go that day and try to combine multiple trips into one. Several short trips starting with a cold engine each time can use twice as much gas as a single longer trip when the engine is warm. Also, plan the route in advance to drive the fewest miles, eliminate backtracking and avoid heavy traffic times and areas.

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