Children and Eco-driving

Car Busters 24, July - Sept 2005

Dear Anna I am a single parent with two kids. Sometimes it is impossible to get around without a car. Can you tell me how to minimise the impact I make on my surroundings?"

Dear Single Parent My friends in your position can't really afford a car, yet are burdened with heavy loads! Localising is your best bet at being greener. It is also convenient and cheap. Let's consider it from the kid's viewpoint.

The Rights of the Child Children have the right to clean air, to be safe and to active play. Did you know?

Car users breathe three times more poisons from fumes than cyclists or walkers.
Ashtma is rising.
Children are recommended at least one hour of physical activity a day.
Sleep problems and obescity are linked to inactivity.
Children who walk or cycle to school are alert and get better results than those arriving by car.

Even if the further option seems superior in itself, by driving there you aren't improving anyone's health. Choose the nearest option instead. If you explore from your door, walking and cycling are feasible, even when travelling with two kids.

Outside of a car you can randomly meet people along the way. These regular interactions could nourish your daily needs for friendships, childminding, school run, car or shopping trip sharing.

For short trips, carfree or carlite travel really matters. As the engine is cold, car trips of less than 2 miles pollute by up to 60% more. Catalytic converters take at least 6 miles to work. Children love walking, cycling and public transport. And you'll have more attention for them if not driving. It can take longer but this is quality time where your family can chat and enjoy nature.

You'll all require waterproofs, shoes, umbrellas, maps, cycles, lights and reflectives to keep dry, seen and safe.

Yet I realise that sometimes by car is the only sensible way. Responsible drivers minimise mileage and negative impacts. Better driving habits can cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 25%. Take heed of these tips as petrol prices are sure to rise as extraction peaks.

Know the way to avoid getting lost, stuck in jams or roadworks. Plan a direct route, ideally off peak and daytime. is a great personal planner of any means of British travel.

Drivers should use main roads. Rat running through residential streets makes them unsafe, especially kids and elderly or disabled. Plus it is a pollution and noise nuisance.

Lift Share Who is going the same way? Ask about sharing and safer routes at work, nursery or school. Swap childcare, drop offs and pick ups. You'll enjoy cost savings and have more free time. Local authorities run sharing websites. Register as a driver or passenger. Sharing benefits everyone. You'll pocket the fuel costs as well as those of wear and tear - at least 21p a mile before parking. Share a shopping run and save on two for one offers.

Mix it Could you go part way on foot, by bicycle or bus? Sturdy cycle trailers can cope with two kids and luggage, e.g. Burley or Chariot. Electric bikes mix human with power assisted propulsion. Lock bikes and switch to public transport, car hire, taxi or lift share. Or walk, cycle or park and then use a Park and Ride bus, train or tram. Try to keep town centres cleaner where air quality matters most.

Take up family travel offers. UK deals are one third off adult fares and cheap kids fares for around 20 per year for family rail or coachcard members.

Car Ownership Share If you don't use a car often, join a car club or share ownership with a friend or neighbour. Members pay as they drive and benefit from a choice of vehicles. They save around 1,400+ per year and have less maintenance and car care hassles.

Go the lightest way. If there is a choice, pick the vehicle with the best fuel efficiency - the smallest. This is crucial when changing cars. A trailer or car hire is for exceptional needs.

Anticipate Thinking ahead for a smooth driving style is safer, greener and saves on spares. Go below the limit in town where 20 mph is plenty. Slower speeds save lives. 40-60 mph gives best fuel efficiency on faster roads. Driving at 70 mph can use up to 30% more fuel than at 50 mph.

Fuel and energy efficiency. Reduce drag by removing a roofrack or excess weight and close windows. Don't fly a flag or scarf! Drive off straight away. Turn the engine off if you expect to wait for more than 10 seconds. This is crucial in towns as an idling engine produces 80% more pollution than when in motion. Alternative fuels give cheaper rides as does turning off air conditioning. Diesel is worse for health than petrol.

Regular maintenance will keep the engine tuned. Inflating tyres to the correct pressure improves safety and cuts emissions by 5%

When changing your car, share ownership or join a car club. Car Plus offer advice. Opt for a small model e.g. a Smart Car. British taxation favours low emissions and alternative fuels. Get one with a good user, pedestrian and cyclist safety record i.e. no bull bars or 4 wheel drives. Responsibly dispose of any unwanted vehicle.

Enjoy the benefits. Spend less time and money on travel and you'll have extra for your family. British households spend 1 in every 6 on motoring, more than on food or housing. You'll also be healthier.

Do persevere at responsible car use. Tread lightly on the earth. It is our children's inheritance. Anna Semlyen, author of Cutting Your Car Use (60,000+ sold) We are actively looking for publishers and authors in other countries (except North America). Email

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