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High Gas Prices No Longer Fueling a Decline in American Driving

AAA says that consumers are changing their behavior as gasoline becomes less expensive compared to previous years.
April 7, 2014

WASHINGTON – Americans have grown significantly less likely to change their driving habits or lifestyle to offset gas prices, according to a new survey by AAA. Only half of U.S. adults (53%) are doing something to offset gas prices, which is about 15% less than in spring 2013. This development comes as gas prices continue to be relatively less expensive compared to previous years.

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

Gasoline demand increased 1.1% in 2013, which was the largest annual increase since 2006, according to the Energy Information Administration. Vehicle miles travelled in 2013 similarly increased an estimated 18.1 billion miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Gas prices generally have remained less expensive than in previous years due to increased production and supplies. The national average price of gas may not even reach $3.65 per gallon this spring, which would be nearly 15 cents less than the peak in 2013 and about 30 cents less than in 2012.

“People may be less likely to change their habits, but they do not seem any happier at the pumps,” continued Darbelnet. “Many drivers grudgingly realize that paying more than $3.00 per gallon for gasoline is the new normal, but they remain frustrated with the price.”

Most people continue to believe that gas prices are too high with the results similar to a year ago. According to the survey: 

·      40% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.00 per gallon

·      5% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.30 per gallon

·      65% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $3.50 per gallon

·      91% believe gas is too high when the price reaches $4.00 per gallon

Roughly half of Americans say they are changing their driving habits or lifestyle to offset gas prices. Those doing so report: 

·      Combining errands or trips: 85%

·      Driving less: 84%

·      Reducing shopping or dining out: 68%

·      Delaying major purchases: 52%

·      Driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle: 49%

·      Putting aside less money for savings: 42%

·      Working closer to home: 41%

·      Carpooling: 30%

·      Using public transportation more regularly: 17%

·      Other: 15%

Younger adults ages 18-34 were significantly more likely to offset prices than older adults by working closer to home (60% vs. 34%), carpooling (49% vs. 23%) and using public transportation more regularly (32% vs. 11%).  These results show a potential generational gap regarding gas prices and behavior.

AAA conducted a telephone survey among two national probability samples (landline only and cell phone), consisting of a combined total of 1,011 adults (508 men and 503 women), 18 years of age and older and living in the continental United States. Interviewing for this survey was conducted on March 6-9. The total included 610 interviews from the landline sample and 401 interviews from the cell phone sample. This study has a 95% margin of error of ±3.7%.