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Low Gas Prices Reversing Decline in Driving

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- American drivers are now significantly less likely to change their driving habits or lifestyles in order to offset gas prices, according to a new AAA survey. Just 53 percent of U.S. adults report doing something to offset gas prices, marking a 15-percent drop from spring 2013.

This development comes as gas prices continue to be relatively less expensive compared to previous years, AAA said.

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

Gasoline demand rose 1.1 percent in 2013, the largest annual increase since 2006, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Similarly, vehicle miles traveled during the year increased by an estimated 18.1 billion miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Increased production and supplies have caused gas prices to remain generally less expensive than previous years. The national average price may not even reach $3.65 per gallon this spring, which would be nearly 15 cents less than the 2013 peak and approximately 30 cents less than the 2012 peak.

"People may be less likely to change their habits, but they do not seem any happier at the pumps," Darbelnet added. "Many drivers grudgingly realize that paying more than $3 per gallon for gasoline is the new normal, but they remain frustrated with the price."

The majority of people continue to believe that gas prices are too high, showing similar results to one year ago. The AAA survey findings show:

  •      40 percent of respondents believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3 per gallon
  •      50 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.30 per gallon
  •      65 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.50 per gallon
  •      91 percent believe gas is too high when the price reaches $4 per gallon

Those Americans who are changing their driving habits or lifestyles to offset gas prices say they are:

  •      Combining errands or trips (85 percent)
  •      Driving less (84 percent)
  •      Reducing shopping or dining out (68 percent)
  •      Delaying major purchases (52 percent)
  •      Driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle (49 percent)
  •      Putting aside less money for savings (42 percent)
  •      Working closer to home (41 percent)
  •      Carpooling (30 percent)
  •      Using public transportation more regularly (17 percent)
  •      Other (15 percent)

Younger adults aged 18 to 34 are significantly more likely than older adults to offset gas prices by working closer to home (60 percent vs. 34 percent), carpooling (49 percent vs. 23 percent) and using public transportation more regularly (32 percent vs. 11 percent). This shows a potential generational gap regarding gas prices and behavior, according to AAA.

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