Average Gas Prices Drop Below $2 in 27 States

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Gasoline prices continue to creep closer to a national average of $2 for a gallon of regular unleaded, a level not seen since March 2009, and one that many thought they might not see again.

Related: What Was the Best-Selling Car in 2014?

Oil prices account for about two-thirds of the price of gas, and U.S. benchmark crude remained below $50 a barrel Thursday, which is less than half what it was in June. According to AAA, the travel services organization, crude prices should remain low for all of 2015 because global supply is outstripping demand.

AAA warns that pump prices could increase this spring when refineries switch to pricier summer gasoline blends and seasonal demand picks up.

By Rick Popely | January 22, 2015 | Comments (1)

New Laws Ban Smoking With Kids in Car

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I was having a conversation with someone recently whose 80-year-old father is currently sick with lung cancer. He smoked much of his youth, and when his son asked him why he even started smoking, he replied that it was simply culturally acceptable during that era: You'd sit down to talk to your doctor during your checkup, and the first thing he'd do was offer you a cigarette. It's shocking to hear that today when we're all too aware of the health dangers of first- and second-hand smoke.

Many drivers, however, haven't gotten the memo, or simply need some extra motivation to keep from lighting up in cars when children are present.

Related: More Family News

Virginia is the latest state to take anti-smoking laws one step further; it's trying to protect children from the dangers of second-hand smoke in cars. If the law is enacted, it would fine a driver $100 for smoking in a car with a passenger younger than 8. That money would go directly to help fund literacy efforts in Virginia. Cars are private property; is the state going too far?

By Kristin Varela | January 22, 2015 | Comments (6)

Would You Choose Pay-as-You Drive Insurance?

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Pay-as-you-drive insurance programs appeal for their low price, but a new study suggests that many Americans would not consider enrolling in one due to privacy concerns. According to the study, 51 percent of people surveyed said they would never consider enrolling in a pay-as-you-drive insurance program, up from 37 percent last year.

Related: By-the-Mile Car Insurance Targets Urban Drivers

The programs, like Metromile, are designed for urban drivers who drive less than 10,000 miles a year and claim to offer a 10-30 percent discount off annual premiums compared with a traditional flat-rate policy. Mileage is tracked via a device that plugs into your car; it captures the data and transmits it to the insurance company for tracking. Most people, however, aren't willing to trade savings for privacy.

"It's still a very small percentage of consumers involved in pay-as-you-drive. I think there's still reluctance on the part of some drivers to have a GPS device installed in their cars that’s monitoring their driving habits," Mike Barry, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, said in a statement.

By Jennifer Geiger | January 19, 2015 | Comments (10)

Regular, Premium and Diesel Prices Fall

The good news for motorists on gas prices keeps rolling in as pump prices continue to fall and analysts predict that oil prices should remain low for the next two years. The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded fell 10 cents the past week to $2.08 on Thursday, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. AAA said more than half of U.S. gas stations are selling regular unleaded for less than $2 a gallon, and it looks increasingly likely that the national average could soon fall below $2 for the first time in nearly six years.

Related: Trucks Take Center Stage at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Twenty-one states were already under that threshold, with Missouri having the lowest statewide average at $1.73. GasBuddy.com listed two stations in the St. Louis area Thursday morning that were selling regular unleaded for less than $1.50 a gallon. AAA said the national average for premium gas was down to $2.50, and this week diesel fuel slipped below $3 to a national average of $2.96 a gallon. Hawaii remained the only state to average more than $3 for regular unleaded at $3.37 per gallon. California, New York and the District of Columbia were the only others with prices over $2.50 a gallon.

By Rick Popely | January 16, 2015 | Comments (6)

How Low Will Gas Prices Go?

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Fifteen weeks and counting. That's how long gas prices have fallen in the longest consecutive decline on record — 105 straight days — and pump prices could fall even lower.

U.S. crude oil was trading below $49 per barrel early Thursday, the lowest price in nearly six years and less than half of what it was in June. Analysts were predicting oil prices could drop more in the near term, pushing gas prices further down as well.

Related: Video: How Long Will Low Gas Prices Last?

The AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said Thursday that the national average for regular unleaded was $2.18 per gallon, the lowest since May 2009 and $1.13 less than a year ago.

Six states were averaging less than $2 per gallon, led by Kansas, $1.89; Oklahoma, $1.87; and Missouri, $1.81. Five more states were within a penny of slipping below the $2 threshold. Regular unleaded could be found for less than $2 at stations in at least 40 states, AAA said.

By Rick Popely | January 9, 2015 | Comments (3)

U.S. Government Fines Honda $70 Million

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In November, Honda disclosed that it failed to report safety problems in a timely manner, specifically underreporting how many people died or were injured by faulty Takata airbag inflators in its vehicles.  Now it's time to pay the consequences. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that Honda will pay two $35 million civil penalties, for a total of $70 million.

Related: Honda Failed to Report Airbag-Related Deaths, Injuries

According to NHTSA, the first fine is for the automaker's failure to report 1,729 death and injury claims between 2003 and 2014. The second penalty stems from Honda's failure to report certain warranty claims and claims under customer satisfaction campaigns throughout the same time period. Both infractions violate the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation Act.

It's the largest auto safety fine in U.S. history and dwarfs the fine levied against General Motors last year; GM paid $35 million for its missteps in handling ignition-related recalls. Like GM, Honda also agreed to increased NHTSA oversight and third-party audits to ensure the law is followed in the future.

By Jennifer Geiger | January 8, 2015 | Comments (2)

AAA: Marijuana Impairment While Driving Still Hazy

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We all know the dangers of drunken driving, but what about driving while high? A new survey from AAA suggests drivers have a, um, cloudy perception of what constitutes drugged driving, but many think it's a growing problem. And with Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. voting in Nov. to join Washington state and Colorado in legalizing recreational pot, the potential looms for drugged driving to grow.

Related: Legalized Marijuana Makes Drugged-Driving Study High Priority

Eighty-five percent of Americans support marijuana impairment laws, according to AAA, and nearly half think that drugged driving is worse today than it was three years ago. Sixteen states have banned any trace of drugs in your system if you're behind the wheel; five more have specific limits for marijuana. But drivers have mixed feelings about pot. While two-thirds think drinking and driving is a "very serious" threat, AAA says only about half of drivers feel the same way about drugged driving.

One in six Americans say they live in an area where general perception is that it's OK to drive an hour after toking up. AAA begs to differ, pointing to federal research that shows  marijuana can impair driving performance for up to three hours after usage.

Cars.com photo illustration by Paul Dolan; photos by Dario Lo Presti/iStock/Thinkstock, Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock, defun/iStock/Thinkstock and itayuri/iStock/Thinkstock

By Kelsey Mays | January 5, 2015 | Comments (7)

Study: Half of Young Driver Fatalities Were in Vehicles at Least 11 Years Old

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A new study has some startling statistics for parents of teen drivers. Forty-eight percent of drivers ages 15 to 17 who died in car crashes from 2008 to 2012 had cars that were at least 11 years old, and nearly a third (29 percent) drove small cars.

Related: Traffic Deaths Down 3.1 Percent in 2013

The study, authored by two Insurance Institute for Highway Safety researchers, chronicled the government's Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from 2008 to 2012. It appeared Dec. 18 in the journal Injury Prevention.

At least in part, the statistics simply reflect the cars that teens drive. Compared to middle-aged drivers killed during the same span, the study notes that teens overwhelmingly drive smaller, older vehicles. What's more, the researchers cite a survey of parents in May 2014 that found some 60 percent of teenagers drive cars at least 8 years old. In the FARS analysis, 82 percent of teens killed in wrecks drove cars that were at least 6 years old.

By Kelsey Mays | December 29, 2014 | Comments (6)

Number of IIHS Top Safety Picks Spike for 2015

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its list of 2015 Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ vehicles, and the total number increased from 39 to 71. This is a significant change considering the agency's criteria have become more stringent this year.

Related: Traffic Deaths Down 3.1 Percent in 2013

The differentiating factor between the two designations is that to earn the Top Safety Pick+ a car must have some form of collision avoidance available. For 2015 year the technology must feature automatic braking of some kind to get the award. A warning of impact is not enough.

Cars still have to earn top marks in four tests including front and side crash tests as well as roof strength. They must also earn a top score of good or a second-rated score of acceptable in the newer small front overlap test to make the grade.

By David Thomas | December 23, 2014 | Comments (3)

Traffic Deaths Down 3.1 Percent in 2013

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Fatalities from traffic accidents decreased 3.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to a traffic fatality report issued today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In total, 32,719 Americans died in traffic accidents in 2013. That's down from 2012's 33,782 — a figure that's been adjusted since NHTSA released it more than a year ago. In 2013, about two-thirds of fatalities (21,132) were occupants in passenger vehicles; the balance comes largely from commercial-vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Related: Study: AAA Finds Safety Systems Still Have Kinks

The totals match a February 2014 estimate by the National Safety Council, but NHTSA typically issues the prior-year report near the end of each calendar year. Of note, traffic injuries (not deaths) also decreased 2.1 percent. Deaths from drunken and/or distracted driving both fell, though distracted-driving injuries increased. Finally, the rate of deaths — 1.10 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2013, versus 1.14 deaths in 2012 — also decreased. That's a historic low, NHTSA says.

Still, the nation's 4,735 pedestrian fatalities are 15 percent higher than 2009's record low, and pedal cyclists (anyone riding a bicycle, tricycle, etc.) increased 1.2 percent to a seven-year high.

Want more? Click here to read NHTSA's full report.

Zoran Horvat/iStock/Thinkstock

By Kelsey Mays | December 19, 2014 | Comments (0)

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