A Climate-Change Scorecard for United States Non-commercial Driver Education

Authors Abstract
In the United States (USA), transportation is the largest single source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, representing 27% of total GHGs emitted in 2020. Eighty-three percent of these came from road transport, and 57% from light-duty vehicles (LDVs). Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which still form the bulk of the United States (US) fleet, struggle to meet climate change targets. Despite increasingly stringent regulatory mechanisms and technology improvements, only three US states have been able to reduce their transport emissions to the target of below 1990 levels. Fifteen states have made some headway to within 10% of their 1990 baseline. Largely, however, it appears that current strategies are not generating effective results.
Current climate-change mitigation measures in road transport tend to be predominantly technological. One of the most popular measures in the USA is fleet electrification, receiving regulatory and fiscal encouragement from 45 US states and federal bills. However, zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) might not be the climate change panacea for the transport sector. ZEVs are facing adoption issues ranging from affordability, equity, and charging infrastructure to vehicle class availability limitations. Despite increasing sales, US electric vehicle (EV) adoption has been behind the curve with a current market penetration of 4.5%. Outside of ZEVs, emission reduction in the US road transport sector has been sluggish.
In road transport, which contributes the bulk of traffic-related air pollution (TRAP), there are clear gaps between policy targets, technology-based expectations, and actual results. For a sector that is struggling to meet climate change targets, broadening its scope of climate change mitigation measures for road transport would be useful. Driver behavior may be an underexplored strategy.
Eco-driving is a known strategy and has been attributed to reducing TRAP by up to 50% (through nontechnological means) in various studies in the USA and across the world. If technological eco-driving measures are included, they can improve fuel economy in excess of 100%. But the extent to which it is included in driver education and licensing protocols in US states is unclear.
This study, therefore, evaluates eco-driving in state-sponsored non-commercial Driving License Manuals (DLMs). Provisions in state DLMs were assessed based on the intent of the prescribed practices (collision safety, environmental exposure, or both), the extent to which these were included, and the strength of the recommended mechanisms (prescriptive or regulatory). The scores were converted into Grades A–D.
The results are revealing. Despite thirty-three US states (66%) with extant climate change commitments, almost the same percentage (62%) of states received a “D” grade and entirely omitted to mention driver influence on fuel consumption and emissions. Only five states (10%) received an “A” grade with substantive eco-driving measures in their DLMs. There is thus significant scope for eco-driving content in DLMs, which can range from the state’s communicating climate change commitments to how drivers influence fuel consumption through their driving practices to empowering drivers with strategies they can adopt to save fuel and money and reduce emissions.
This inclusion has the potential to improve vehicular fuel economy and help states meet their climate change goals. Driver education is the first step. Eco-driving principles can be further bolstered through subsequent inclusion in the driver training and testing phases of driver licensing.
Meta TagsDetails
Primlani, R., and Misra, K., "A Climate-Change Scorecard for United States Non-commercial Driver Education,"https://doi.org/10.4271/13-05-01-0005.
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May 13, 2023
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Journal Article