Kish calls me the Uptight Traveler. That means getting to the airport more than an hour before the departure time of any flight, making sure that we’ve got hotel reservations lined up rather than winging it when we’re on the road, and a host of other rules of thumb designed to avoid the last-minute activity that often can mess up your travel plans.
It also means that, when driving, I pay careful attention to the fuel gauge. When the needle moves below a quarter of a tank, I start to look for the nearest self-serve station. And if I get in the car after someone else has been driving it and the fuel light comes on, it pretty much makes me break out in hives.
In more than 40 years of driving, I’ve never run out of gas. I’m proud of that record, because I think running out of gas is one of the most avoidable self-inflicted wounds Americans can experience in our car-saturated culture. I can’t imagine how I would be kicking myself if the engine stopped and I had to coast to the berm on a highway because I was trying to go one exit more after the light showed I was running on empty.
Other people, however, are different. The devil-may-care sort think it’s fun and exciting to flirt with roadway disaster and tempt the sadistic highway gods that might throw a traffic jam in their path when the fuel gauge shows empty. These fate-tempting risk-takers pooh-pooh the legitimate concerns of anyone who reacts to things like fuel gauges — even though that’s exactly why fuel gauges were created in the first place.
To those preening daredevils, I offer this handy chart from Road & Track that tells you, for the 50 most popular cars sold in America, how much gas is left in the tank when the fuel light comes on. And I ask: would you rather roll safely into a gas station to fill up with a reasonable amount of gas still in the tank, or run the risk that you might soon be trudging down a highway berm, gas can in hand, or leaning against your car calling the nearest towing service so you can be gouged for the price of a rescue run?