Photography: Douglas Muth

Collectively, America's 230 million drivers have a great impact on themselves and on our nation: How much money we spend in fuel use and maintenance. The amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere that impacts our climate. How much fossil fuel energy is consumed. The air quality and health impact. What we drive and how we drive make all the difference.


Let's look at the impacts.


Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and increased energy consumption have a negative impact on our planet: they are contributing to the warming of the atmosphere which is resulting in climate change. According to NASA, the impacts of climate change—affecting different parts of the country in varying ways—are rising temperatures, more droughts and heat waves, and changes in precipitation patterns. These effects—which will have more and more impact in the coming decades—manifest themselves in more frequent and intensive wildfires and hurricanes, flooding, sea level rise, and eventually an ice-free Arctic. Energy consumption impacts how much we continue to rely on the extraction and burning of fossil fuels which contribute to climate change. Making a choice to switch to low- to zero-emission vehicles or employing smart driving practices will mitigate these impacts.


The International Energy Agency (IEA) outlines how the world can reach net zero emissions by 2050. Their analysis states that a third to a half of homes should be retrofitted to save energy and more than half of passenger cars should be electric in 2030 on a path to carbon neutrality.


Moblie sources (transportation) of pollution have an adverse impact on human health. See EPA's How Mobile Source Pollution Affects Your Health


These impacts include:

Smog aka ground level ozone: created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight

Particle pollution: also called particulate matter (PM), a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, emitted from multiple sources including vehicles

Air toxics: more than 100 air toxics exist from multiple sources; vehicle tailpipe toxins include benzene, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and hydrogen chloride



• health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma

• at sufficient concentrations and durations, may increase chances of getting cancer

• premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, Irregular heartbeat


Driving low- to zero-emission vehicles or employing smart driving practices will mitigate these impacts.


Almost everyone cares how much money they spend. Poor driving behaviors on a day-to-day basis add up and can cost hundreds of dollars annually in fuel use and vehicle maintenance.


Hard acceleration and braking can waste fuel and lower your gas mileage by roughly 15% to 30% at highway speeds and 10% to 40% in stop-and-go traffic as shown on the Driving More Efficiently page. Dept. of Energy studies show that for every 5 miles per hour you drive over 60 miles per hour, fuel economy is lowered by 7 percent. Save costs by reducing time spent idling (avoiding more frequent oil changes), and by using cruise control. And a properly-maintained vehicle can improve fuel economy by 4 percent. This includes vehicle tune ups, keeping tires properly inflated, and timely air filter replacements.


Following these TIPS will lead to being a smart and efficient driver that keeps more money in the wallet.