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Published: Saturday, 9/14/2013

It’s time to slow down — behind the wheel, that is

Mary Alice Powell. Mary Alice Powell.
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I have become one of those old lady drivers who gets dirty looks, the finger, and is frequently yelled at in heavy traffic.

Do I blush red with embarrassment?

No, the harassment is not embarrassing, but some of the loud profanity does lock a lump in my stomach. How could the guy speeding by me in the pickup have the audacity to yell words he surely didn’t learn in Sunday school?

But, with head held high and hands gripping the steering wheel tightly, I continue forward at my slow, deliberate pace on the highway. No doubt about it — 45 and 50 miles an hour is a slow pace by today’s driving standards.

But, that is my new rule since the day I heard a loud siren behind me and received a traffic violation for not stopping at a stop sign in Grand Rapids, Ohio, just two houses away from my destination.

I was not only surprised, but also mortified that I had done something that would cause Ohio State Trooper Nate Towns to give me a ticket that led to a $135 fine. Up until the dreadful moment he handed me the blue slip and said, “You slowed way down, but you didn’t stop,”

I mistakenly thought I had made a new friend and had considered offering a pot of tea.


He had come into my newly acquired Grand Rapids house and had even offered to help move household goods with his truck and van. I am also quite sure he said I was a nice lady. But, as we know, the officers patrolling the roads are in charge and no matter how many tears we shed, how sorry we are, or how amiable they are, it’s their word against ours.

I decided to chalk up the ticket as a valuable lesson in careless road behavior and vowed to drive more slowly and cautiously every mile and every day.

It has truly become a fascinating challenge to keep the speed below the limit and to always stop for much longer than is necessary at stop signs and railroad crossings.

Many of the average 400 miles a week that I drive are on two-lane roads that usually are devoid of heavy traffic and where it would be easy to “slow down” and not stop completely at crossroad stop signs and railroad tracks.

By keeping the speedometer at or less than 50 mph I may be a pain on the road and not get to my destination as quickly as I could, but there is an incentive other than safe driving. I am saving gas money and who doesn’t want to do that?

As the engine heats up at higher speeds, fuel is burned faster. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, when we drive 65 miles an hour we are using 10 percent more gas than when we are driving at 55.

At 70 miles an hour the gas loss is 17 percent and at 75, it’s 25 percent. Another tidbit passed on by the council is that if the national speed limit was 55 miles an hour, and obeyed, it would save 1 billion barrels of oil a year.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com

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