We drove up to Flagstaff this weekend to visit some friends. I always enjoy the drive - the scenery is beautiful and every single time I drive up I am reminded how much I love Arizona!
However, the traffic is the part I don't love, and this trip was a perfect example of why I think Americans DESERVE higher gas prices. Once leaving the Valley, the I-17 narrows to 2 lanes each way. The speed limit for the first 30 miles north is only 65, because there is so much traffic between Phoenix and Anthem. There is also road construction for a good portion of that stretch, so the posted limit was 55. Of course, everyone was going at least 70 - tailgating and lane changing like crazy to get around anyone foolish enough to try to obey the limit.
I'm no saint, and while I wasn't going 70, I was chugging along at 65. Even still, the majority of those on the road, in their huge SUVs, were gunning it to tailgate someone, then having to slow down until the hapless sod in front of them was intimidated enough to move over to the right lane.
After Anthem, traffic lightens up quite a bit, and the speed limit goes up to 75. Unfortunately, there was a huge truck that thought it was a Formula One racer camped out in the left lane, but it could never get its speed up to 70. Everyone was backed up behind him, unable to pass, and the right lane was moving about the same speed, so there was no way to get around him. I found myself caught up in this pack, impatiently wishing all sort of foul curses on that truck driver. I was getting snippy with Chris, and trying to avoid having people squeeze in between me and the truck in front of me.
Finally, near New River, that truck finally got a clue and moved over into the right lane. We all leaped forward like runners at the gunshot, climbing up to the 80s in our haste to get past him in case he decided to block traffic again. Chris asked me what happened to my driving zen, and I snapped back at him and lapsed into silence.
After about 10 minutes, though, I cooled down, apologized, and set the cruise control at 70. This is my zen, to drive 5 miles under the speed limit for long trips. It's so much more relaxed to drive at that speed (as long as you're considerate and stay in the right lane, of course). There's no getting caught in some pack of speeders, always plenty of space in front of you, you're not going so slow that you cause any danger, and there's usually no problem passing the few folk that are going even slower than you.
Additionally, let's do a little math. Once leaving Phoenix, Flagstaff is 120 miles away. Going 75 mph means that 120/75=1.6 hours to Flag. Going 70, you only add 1/10 of an hour (1.71), or 6 minutes, to your trip. That 6 minutes is well worth the reduction in stress, and has the additional benefit of better gas mileage. Even with all the hills, we got 42 mpg on the trip up, and 56 mpg on the coast home.
What does this have to do with Americans deserving higher gas prices? The majority of drivers on the road, both on in-town freeways and interstate, speed like maniacs in their huge cars that get maybe 10 mpg at the best of times - all to shave off a few minutes on their trip. And they don't just speed - they rev up and slow down constantly to weave around traffic, further lessening their fuel efficiency. My point is, I believe gas prices should continue to go up until Americans learn to conserve what they have - and part of that is just making some little changes in driving habits. One would think that if you're spending $100 to fill up your tank, you'll think a little bit about how you use it.