Gas Prices Impact Driving Habits Less

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Fewer Americans are reducing how much they drive because of gas prices, which average $3.57 for a gallon of regular unleaded, 7 cents less than a year ago, AAA said Thursday.

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In a telephone survey conducted by AAA, 53 percent of motorists said they are changing their driving habits or lifestyle to offset higher gas prices. A year ago, when pump prices averaged $3.64, 68 percent said they were reducing the amount of driving they do.

"Many people seem to be feeling less pressure to make significant changes in their lives on account of high gas prices," Bob Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA, said in a release. "Less expensive gasoline may encourage people to drive more and worry less about the financial burden of filling up their tanks."

AAA said gas prices are lower than at the same time in previous years because of higher production and supplies. The travel services organization predicted prices may peak this spring at less than $3.65 per gallon. Regular unleaded peaked at $3.79 last year, $3.94 in 2012 and $3.98 in 2011.

Though prices may not go as high as they did last year, they have continued to rise. The national average for regular unleaded crept up 3 cents per gallon in the past week, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The $3.57 average pump price is 11 cents higher than a month ago and 30 cents higher than in early February. Motorists in some states saw significant price increases over the last week. Prices jumped by 7 cents in Kentucky to $3.59, in Alabama and Tennessee to $3.39, and in Louisiana to $3.36. The average price in South Carolina and Mississippi increased 6 cents to $3.32 and $3.35, respectively, though both states still ranked among those with the cheapest gas.

Montana had the lowest statewide average at $3.28. The highest was Hawaii at $4.26, a 4-cent increase from a week ago. California's average price gained 2 cents to $4.01. Alaska, $3.82; Connecticut and New York, $3.78; and Illinois, $3.76 also ranked among states with the highest prices. In the District of Columbia, prices increased by 5 cents to $3.75.

Price fluctuations continued to vary widely by location. Michigan's average, for example, rose 5 cents to $3.72, but in neighboring Ohio they fell by 4 cents to $3.58. In the Memphis area, where unexpected refinery maintenance disrupted the supply of gas, prices rose 5 cents to $3.37, following a 6-cent increase the previous week.

Diesel fuel fell by a penny to $3.97 the past week and is 4 cents cheaper than a month ago and on the same date a year ago.

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

By Rick Popely | April 4, 2014 | Comments (6)

Comments 

wain

Where and when was this so called survey conducted. I'm a driver so i know what the current price of gasoline is, i also drive everyday and i don't see any improvement in the way people drive, they're driving monster SUV's and large trucks and still driving like bats out of hell at least around here. So i give this survey thumbs down.

wain,
You might've misread the story. That's exactly what the survey is saying. That because gas prices this year are lower than the past few years, people aren't driving less or changing habits. They're still buying the cars they want where they want. Versus when gas was closer to $4.

carma

Either people are desensitized to the price of gasoline, or the price hasn't risen enough to change driving behavior. I remember when gas hit $1.60 a gallon in 1980. People definitely drove less and the reduction in demand caused the price to drop. Of course, $1.60 in 1980 translates to $5.50 per gallon in today's dollars. Would that do it today? I think so. Demand for gasoline is elastic, so if people drive less the price drops. Demand for diesel is inelastic because of all the trucks, busses and heavy equipment. That's why I will never own a diesel car.

People have to get to work and live their lives. I'm not sure what will really start changing people driving habits, maybe $10 per gallon would!

Kameel

A reputable consulting company did an extensive research on this topic and reported that majority of consumers will not change their daily driving habits until gas cost $5.25-5.50.

I'm not worried as I know Obama will have his gas czars fix the problem.

Jeff

This survey only proves that people like to complain about "high" gas prices, but in reality, they aren't yet high enough to affect the overall budget of most drivers. The prices are still relatively low enough that people can shift money from other non-essential purchases, in lieu of choosing to drive less and/or buy a more-efficient vehicle.

I agree with other commenters: prices will need to reach at least $5-$6/gallon before we actually start seeing it affect the driving/purchasing habits of the average person. Then again, maybe that's not high enough. It might take $8-$10 gas before things change.

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