How Right-Hand Turns Save You Money

October 25, 2010

While two wrongs don’t make a right, three left-hand turns do make a right. And when it comes to driving, you should always go right, not left.

This notion first came to light a a few years back when UPS promoted that it had instructed its drivers to make right-hand turns only as a way to save on fuel consumption. The company known for its brown trucks and uniforms had figured out that in having drivers make right turns only, the trucks ended up traveling less distance to make more deliveries–and faster, too. Oh, and they saved on gas, which saved the company money. Even the perennial cynics on Mythbusters have proven that this approach really does work.

Now, it seems, regular drivers are taking the right-hand turn only approach as well. I read in the November 19th issue of All You magazine that the California Energy Commission recommends that drivers run errands in a clockwise direction. That is, they go right only to get to their destination. The article says this:

“Waiting every two minutes to take a left turn uses about the same amount of gasoline as it would to drive one mile–and an hour’s worth of idling can burn almost a gallon of fuel.”

I realize that this makes sense and is easy to do if you live in a densely populated place, but where I live I would have to drive way out of my way in order to avoid a left turn. For example, I just mapped a trip to the post office:

  • Regular route: .8 miles
  • Right-hand turn only route: 1.1 miles

Now if I wanted to go to the nearest supermarket, here’s how that would play out:

  • Regular route: 1.1 miles
  • Right-hand turn only route: 1.35 miles

Here’s the best, though–picking my kids up from school. (It is close enough to walk.)

  • Regular route: .4 miles
  • Right-hand turn only route: 2.6 miles

So what’s the verdict? If you can figure out ahead of time that your route will vary by a few 10ths of a mile, then I guess it’s worth it to try the right hand-turn only route. However, I don’t know about your town, but they recently installed “no turn on red” signs at many of the intersections where I would be using this right-hand turn approach. That would leave me idling while the light was red and then I guess I would have been better off just going my regular route with left turns.

Have you tried the UPS approach to driving, by going right only? How did that work out for you?

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3 Responses to How Right-Hand Turns Save You Money

  1. Matt on November 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Another point is that right hand turns tend to be safer. That’s a potential cost savings as well.

    When I worked at a car dealership, the idea was to always do right hand turns on test drives to keep from having accidents.

    • Leah Ingram on November 3, 2010 at 1:15 pm


      That’s awesome advice on the safety aspect. I never would have thought of that. Thanks.


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