Ian Morton is the CEO of Scout Environmental

Two drivers travel down the street in the same model car; and yet by the end of the road one driver has spent more money than the other. Why is that? If you’re getting strong flashbacks to high school math, stay with me, because this situation reflects a real problem many drivers are facing. Without meaning to, you may be creating more emissions and paying a higher cost per trip than your spouse or your neighbour with the same car. We’ve learned that small changes in driving styles or habits can make a large difference. For instance, for every 10 km/h you go over 100, your fuel efficiency drops by 10%. Driving 120 km/h on the highway instead of 100 is like paying 20% extra for gas, and results in much higher emissions.

Personal vehicles account for a substantial 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. That’s a large chunk of emissions than can be impacted by individual choice. While ultimately we need to shift towards low-carbon transportation options, there are ways that driver behavior itself can save money and reduce emissions.  The first step is identifying your financially and environmentally risky driving habits, and learning what changes to make.

The Smart Drive Challenge is a data-driven driver engagement program that identifies inefficient driving habits, and encourages improvements. TAF funded an earlier phase of this work. Smart Drive Challenge is now recruiting drivers within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).  The program works by giving participating drivers a device to connect to their vehicle’s computer. This device will measure regular driving habits as participants drive normally, going about their day-to-day lives. Drivers will then take a 30-minute online training course to learn how to drive better (more efficiently) and drive less (reduced distance driven).  Drivers are then challenged to put this training to the test, with the goal of reducing fuel consumption by 15%. Participants are given online tools and communications that track their individual progress and show how they compare to one another.

People who have taken the Challenge have reported a better awareness of their fuel use and saved money in their commute. Rob Dean, a program participant said “I always knew that it was bad, but I didn’t realize how bad, and I actually changed my commute because of this. I was guilty of being hard on the gas and the brake and you really save a lot of gas by just taking it easy. There are all kinds of things I am now doing to be a better driver.”

If you’re interested in gaining a better understanding of how your driving habits can save you money and lower your environmental impact, visit www.SmartDriveChallenge.ca and apply to participate for free.

Check out the Smart Drive Challenge video:

Smart Drive Challenge is a program of Scout Environmental and is brought to you by the Canadian Fuels Association with funding support provided by The Ontario Ministry of Energy, Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Natural Resources Canada. Program collaborators include the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, University of Toronto, University of BC and FleetCarma.

Scout Environmental (formerly Summerhill Impact) is a not-for-profit organization that specializes in the development, delivery and management of creative programs that engage people on issues related to the environment.