Unexpectedly Intriguing!
19 June 2007

Truck No-Zones Tim Haab of Environmental Economics had too much time on his hands recently, so he worked out the math for determining just how much hypermilers value their lives.

At least, those hypermilers who attempt to increase the gas mileage of their cars by driving really, really closely behind large trucks to cut down on the mileage-robbing wind resistance of highway speed driving - a practice known in racing circles as drafting.

Fans of the Discovery Channel's MythBusters series will recognize drafting as the myth taken on by the show's build team, who provided the empirical data for the increases in gas mileage that come from trailing a semi-truck at distances from a slightly too close 100 feet to an entirely too close 10 feet. [Not to mention to an insanely too close 2 feet separation!]

In any case, we've combined our model of the MythBusters' data with a slightly tweaked version of Tim's math in the tool below, in which we find out what statistical value hypermilers are placing on their lives when they go extreme tailgating at 55 miles per hour.

Driving Data
Input Data Values
Distance Behind Truck (ft)
Regular Mileage (miles per gallon)
Distance Driven While Drafting Behind Truck (miles)
Fuel Cost ($ per gallon)
Number of Accidents per 100,000 Miles Driven
Number of Deaths per 1,000 Automobile Accidents

Probabilities and Values
Calculated Results Values
Percentage Increase in Gas Mileage
Probability of Crashing if Truck Crashes
Cost Savings per Mile Driven While Drafting Behind Truck
Statistical Value of Hypermiler's Life

We ran our default numbers above for a 100 foot trailing distance and a 10 foot trailing distance. Trailing 100 feet behind a semi at 55 miles per hour, the hypermiler is effectively valuing the remaining years of their life at $263,500.38. Trailing at 10 feet, the hypermiler is indicating that they place of their life at $176,226.92, more than $87,000 less.

Conclusion: the stupider the things you do, the less valuable you are!

Editor's Note: We shouldn't have to say this, but if you're drafting behind big rigs at highway speeds, you are, in Tim's immortal words, "an a$$h@!& driver."

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