I AM at the controls of a brand new Mercedes because I have been told I could knock hundreds of pounds a year off my fuel bill.

It is not because this car is newer than my Peugeot 206, or the fact it is packed full of modern fuel-saving gadgets. It is down to how it is driven.

As someone who spends more than an hour a day crawling to work through traffic on the M27, I was keen to learn how.

Senior instructor Dave Watkins from the Eastleigh fire station-based Blue Lamp Trust took notes on my driving as I cruised along the motorway at 70mph.

When we had reached a car park in Hedge End, he checked the on-board computer and noted my eco score.

The car had done 48 miles-per-gallon during the 15-minute drive and the trip was just five per cent eco friendly.

Dave advised me of the changes I should make, recommending that I change gears sooner, stay at 60mph, look further down the road and leave bigger gaps between other vehicles making it easier to maintain a constant speed and reducing the need to brake heavily when other vehicles slowed in front.

He also recommended trying to keep the car moving as much as possible, even if it was slowly.

Starting the engine once more I put his advice to the test.

Back at Eastleigh fire station the on-board computer stated that the journey back had been 75 per cent eco friendly, with the car running at 74.3 miles-per-gallon.

Yet it had only taken two minutes longer – understandable because of the increased traffic on the way back.

Using the advice made the drive home more than 50 per cent more fuel efficient which, if all of the tips are followed, could translate into hundreds of pounds worth of savings every year.

Dave, who joined the Blue Lamp Trust three years ago after spending four years teaching police responding to emergency calls, said: “It doesn’t take much in the way of modifying a driving style to produce a significant reduction in fuel consumption.

“The cost of fuel has increased to record heights and it’s a limited resource, so we have got to make it last longer. We should also consider the effects on the environment.

“Reducing the CO2 emissions will have a knock-on effect to our health including breathing-related illnesses such as asthma.

“With eco driving it improves safety in a number of ways because we pay more attention to our vehicle checks, so our cars will be safer before we get on the roads and our increased vehicle spacing will improve safety in relation to rear end shunts and that will go a long way to reducing insurance premiums.”

The Blue Lamp Trust has recently launched two eco driving courses to help individuals and businesses slash fuel bills.

Drivers can choose between a three-hour classroom-based course or a one-hour course behind the wheel and they will get a certificate on its completion.

All proceeds go to the Bobby Scheme, which last year secured 2,500 elderly and vulnerable people’s homes, including installing smoke alarms and door chains.

• THE trust is offering a limited number of free places on the eco course which will be given on a first-come first-served basis.

For more details, call 0300 777 0157 or visit bluelamptrust.org.uk.