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Eco friendly driving - why should I bother?!

Eco safe driving - why should I bother?! 

Within the last 10 years, DVSA examiners started assessing the candidate's ability to demonstrate driving techniques that measure their fuel efficiency. This was introduced in order to comply with European Union legislation.

So what does Eco safe driving mean? Well, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, 

"The practice of driving in such a way as to minimise fuel consumption and the emission of carbon dioxide"

Let's delve a little further and discover more about Eco friendly driving and how you can benefit from practising it on your driving test and beyond. The DT1 (which is a document that provides guidance for DVSA driving examiners), states that, 

"'Eco-safe Driving' is a recognised and proven style of driving. It contributes to road safety while reducing fuel consumption and emissions and is part of the EU 3rd Directive on Driving Licences, which reflects the increased awareness and need for economical / environmentally friendly driving."

On your driving test there are two Eco-safe headings: control and planning. The Eco safe driving boxes on the marking sheet (DL25), are used by the examiner to record an assessment of the driver's ability to drive economically and with the environment in mind. The DVSA recognises that learner drivers are not expected to be experts at Eco friendly driving, to the extent that it doesn't contribute to the result of the test. 

Let's have a closer look at each of these categories in detail, starting with control. A good understanding of how to use the controls correctly and smoothly will result in the development of something called vehicle sympathy, which will naturally lead to Eco friendly driving. 



Gentle acceleration will use less fuel so it's important to develop gentle feet from the very start of your driver training. Take your time getting used to exactly how little pressure is needed when using the throttle; a gentle squeeze is all that's needed. I like to get my students to understand the importance of getting your feet coordinated when using the gas and the clutch to move off from a standstill; a lesson I call "pedal confidence"! It's also important to understand about what happens when we ease off the accelerator, this is known as deceleration. Development of deceleration sense will also aid fuel economy. 


As a new driver I think it's important to understand why you should aim not to use the brakes harshly. Take your time to practice smooth use of the brakes, and learn when to brake. What we're aiming for is something called progressive braking, which is the art of easing off the brakes as the vehicle comes to a stop. As for when to use the footbrake, this will take practice and a good understanding of when to come off the gas and use deceleration sense as mentioned under use of the accelerator (see above). When you first start to learn to drive and you have used the brakes a few times, my advice would be to ask your driving instructor if you can just practice braking. This way you can find out just how long it takes your car to come to a stop where you want it to stop, and how much pressure is needed to develop a smooth way of braking; always much nicer for your passengers! 


Being in the correct gear for the speed you're travelling at also impacts on the amount of fuel your vehicle uses, and therefore affects your Eco friendly driving status by releasing less pollutants into the air. 

A lot of people believe that in order to achieve maximum fuel efficiency, they need to be in the highest possible gear for their speed. This is generally correct, but be very careful to remember it's also important not to let the engine "labour". This is where the engine is under strain because the revs are too low for the speed and this can lead to some of the fuel in the cylinder not burning, which can harm the engine and engine oil. 

Ask your instructor to tell you about and teach you "block changing" too. This is a relatively simple technique that can also save fuel. 


Forward planning and anticipation can have a huge impact on how Eco friendly your driving style is. Unfortunately, as a new learner driver, you will not be able to plan ahead at all in the very early stages of your training. This is because all of your brain is struggling to deal with the very basic car control skills. 

However, once you are further into your training, you will find it easier to look further ahead and begin to anticipate how other drivers may affect the way you use the controls as already discussed in the "Control" section above. The list below highlights some poor planning techniques that will increase your fuel consumption. 

- Not anticipating what you will need to do at junctions and roundabouts, resulting in harsh braking. 

- Getting too close to the vehicle ahead in queues, resulting in unnecessary braking. 

 - Not looking far enough ahead reduces your ability to plan block gear changes.  

- Poor anticipation of other road user's intentions, resulting in you having to stop instead of keeping your vehicle moving. 

- Responding late to speed limit road signs leads to late/harsh braking which wastes fuel.

In this blogpost I have only mentioned a few Eco friendly techniques and "do's and don'ts"; there are many more ways that drivers can utilise that can lessen the impact your driving has on the environment. Please ask your driving instructor for more guidance. 

Helen Adams ADI


"Eco-driving advice - Get more out of the fuel you buy". Accessed online on 20 September 2015 at,

Definition of Eco friendly driving. Accessed online on 18 September 2015 at,

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Purple Driving - Manual Driver Training in & around Bognor Regis & Chichester, West Sussex