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You Hold the Key, SC! Banner Image Tips for Drivers

Your individual driving choices can affect the fuel economy of your vehicle and your overall impact on air quality. Below are some tips to help you become a "green driver." By adopting any of these practices, you can save gas, save money, and spare the air.

There are three basic things you can do reduce your fuel consumption and help improve air quality:

Even a well-maintained car will pollute more than necessary if it is driven carelessly. Your car will get better gas mileage if you apply sensible driving practices and follow basic rules of the road.

Slow and steady

  • Drive smoothly. Accelerate and brake gradually. Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a steady speed.
  • Plan your trips around rush hour if possible, to avoid vehicle idling and stop-and-go driving.
  • Obey the speed limit. Fuel economy decreases above 60 mph – it takes more gas to go faster. Every additional 5 mph is like paying an extra 29 cents per gallon.  (Source:

30-second rule

  • Avoid long periods of idling. Idling for just 30 seconds uses more gas than restarting your engine. Park your car and walk into restaurants, banks, and the like instead of idling in drive-through lanes. Turn off your engine while waiting in parking lots, even for a few minutes. Do not idle near schools, hospitals, or other places near sensitive populations.
    • Note: do not turn off your engine while idling in traffic or at stoplights.
  • Limit your morning warm-up to 30 seconds, even in winter – idling in cold weather can cause excessive wear your engine and is not necessary in South Carolina's climate.

Easy on the engine

  • Travel light. Extra weight from unnecessary items in the trunk and increased drag from exterior attachments like bicycle and luggage racks decreases your vehicle's gas mileage.
  • Reduce engine load (making the engine work especially hard). Running the air conditioner, quick accelerations, high speeds, revving the engine and carrying extra weight create extra load on the engine. Instead of the air conditioner, try opening the windows or using the fresh-air vent to keep cool.
  • Use overdrive, if your car has this gearing (found on 5-speed manual transmissions and 4-speed automatic transmissions). Overdrive allows the engine to operate at a lower rpm for a given road speed and allows the vehicle to achieve better fuel efficiency.

Don't be fuelish

  • Do not "top off" your fuel tank. The pump automatically stops when the tank is full. The extra fuel feeds back into the pump or evaporates, so you pay for gas that your car won't use.
  • When refueling, be careful not to spill any fuel and replace the fuel cap tightly.
  • Plan to refuel during the coolest times of day (early morning or late evening) to reduce fuel lost to evaporation.

Choosing your car

  • If you own more than one vehicle, drive the one with the best fuel economy whenever possible, especially on longer trips.
  • When shopping for your next car, look for the most fuel-efficient and least-polluting model that fits your needs and your budget.
  • The most effective way to reduce emissions from your vehicle is to use it less. Consider the following options to help reduce your vehicle miles traveled.
  • Carpool/Vanpool, ride mass transit, walk or bike whenever possible.
  • Shop by phone, mail, or the Internet.
  • Try Trip-chaining and combine several errands into a single trip. Think ahead and plan the shortest, most efficient route. If possible, drive to a central location and walk between destinations.

When you must drive, make sure your vehicle is in good working condition. You will reduce your car's emissions and enhance its performance if you follow the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines. By taking proper care of your car, you will also extend its life, increase its resale value, and optimize its fuel economy, or "gas mileage."

  • Keep your car properly tuned. Get regular tune-ups and maintenance checks, including parts replacements. Check your owner's manual for maintenance recommendations. Don’t ignore the "check engine" or "service soon" lights.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Under-inflation causes more wear on the tires, decreases gas mileage, and can be a safety risk.
  • Get regular oil changes, and use the recommended grade of motor oil for your car. If you change your own oil, be sure to recycle.
  • Replace the air filter regularly. A clean air filter keeps impurities out of the engine and improves its fuel economy.

Helpful Links

Green Driver Project targets high school driver education classes to discuss the environmental impact of driving. The classroom presentation, conducted by a DHEC staff member, centers on used oil recycling, air and water issues, energy conservation and litter prevention.

In addition to the high school effort, the poster "Become a Green Driver" targets elementary schools. Even before they drive, when they are riding in a car, students can help protect the environment.
The SC511 Travel Information Service, provided by the South Carolina Department of Transportation, is a voice-activated phone system and website that provides real-time traffic and travel information to travelers statewide.

Using this website can enable drivers to customize their daily commute, reduce traffic, and save time and money.

For more information please contact the Bureau of Air Quality at (803) 898-4123 or by email.