With gas prices soaring past $4 per gallon, and no foreseeable end in sight, Connecticut drivers are feeling the pain at the pump, and in their pocketbooks, with every fill-up.
As the national average closes in at $3.84 per gallon, and even higher in Connecticut at $4.10 per gallon for regular unleaded and $4.33 for premium, consumers are being forced to become more savvy when it comes to their daily driving habits.
In light of rising gas prices, and in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations across the globe, AAA just released its top five tips to help drivers “save some green by going green.” Tip No. 1 suggests drivers ease up on both the gas and brake pedals to avoid quick stops and starts, while Tip No. 2 is to simply slow down.
Statistics show that drivers who adhere to the speed limit, or even a few miles per hour less, can reduce their fuel consumption up to 23 percent. Every five mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
In Oxford, where the price of gas at the Mobil station on Route 67 climbed to $4.19 per gallon on Friday, resident Richard Burke said he’s been taking steps to save some green at the pump.
“In sync with AAA, my motto has been ‘drive light,’ meaning light foot on both the gas and brake pedals,” said Burke, a member of the town's Board of Finance. “It not only stretches the gas by two or three miles per gallon, but also helps to make the brake pads and tires last longer and go farther.”
Enter AAA’s Tip No. 3: “Keep Your Car in Tip-Top Shape.”
By dusting off the owner’s manual, and locating the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule inside, AAA suggests making minor adjustments and repairs, which can result in reduced gas mileage upwards of 4 percent.
Burke says he doesn’t tail gate, and brakes well in advance to give himself ample time to apply light pressure to the brakes, which, ultimately, saves wear and tear on his brake pads.
By far, however, one of his largest cost-saving lifestyle changes is carpooling.
“Since work is a solid hour away, I carpool,“ he noted. “I have carpooled with a good friend for almost 10 years now. It's not only cut the gas bill in half, but also reduces the overall wear and tear on the car, making it last longer. The economy aspect aside, it's also a great way to discuss life issues and catch up on reading.”
As for AAA’s No. 4, “Choose a Greener Car,” Burke isn‘t convinced about buying one anytime soon.
“As for those green cars, aside from a very few, my analysis questions the investment,” he said. “The break even point for these cars in years and miles to recoup the premium charged is significant. Beyond this, when also considering the potential battery replacement cost, I'll stick with a conventional car until the technologies are more improved.”
Chris DiTuccio, a Brookfield resident who grew up in Oxford, commutes 20 miles each day to his job in Danbury. Having recently bought a brand new pickup truck, boasting eight cylinders of raw power, DiTuccio said the frequent fill-ups are starting to take a toll.
“I spend every other day at the gas station,” DiTuccio said. “I’m paying nearly $100 each fill-up.”
He said he hasn’t been doing much to ease his personal pain at the pump, but with prices escalating by the day, he may be so included to change his mind set.
“I just paid $4.17 per gallon at my local Mobil station, and it seems like just over the last week, prices have been going up every single day," he said. "That made me stop and really think about what’s happening. We have to brace ourselves, because the worse is yet to come. You’ve got to hope the government will do something to help us out.”
President Obama just this week called upon a federal government task force to watch for potential fraud in oil and gas markets.
Jamie Vronesi, who lives in Middlebury and works in information technology for the Torrington (Litchfield County) school system, said he’s all but stopped driving his beloved Ford F350 truck, which has an eight-cylinder engine, because it's just too tough on his wallet.
When he drove his truck, which gets just 10 miles per gallon, Vronesi was spending about $700 a month on gas to get to Torrington, which is about 16 miles from his home.
“The truck was really killing me,” he said. “It’s awesome because it’s so big, but because of that, it's a gas guzzler.”
Vronesi has taken advice of the AAA and started the speed limit. He’s found that if he puts the truck on cruise control at 65 mph, he can get a whopping 12 miles per gallon. “Every little bit helps,” he said with a chuckle.
In the past couple of months, Vronesi has taken to driving his other car, a 1993 Mustang GT, which sees a sizable difference in gas mileage at 18 miles per gallon.
While he’s happy with the savings, it’s still not quite enough.
“I’m thinking about getting a crummy (Volkswagen) Jetta for two or three grand and drive that,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to get rid of his truck but he may have to.
When the weather gets warmer, Vronesi will rely on his backup plan: He’s going to ride his motorcycle to work on sunny days.
“That gets 25 miles to the gallon,” he said.
Another man who plans to change his habits to save money is Carl Willman of Bethel. He moved recently moved there from Danbury so he could be closer to his job in that town. While the move has afforded him the opportunity to work less than two miles from his hose, and consider biking to work when the weather gets warmer, it has taken its toll on his live-in girlfriend, Amanda Jordan.
Jordan works in Brewster, N.Y., a roughly 16-mile drive each way from her house. She has taken steps to save money.
When she moved to Bethel, Jordan had a Dodge Intrepid, a car that she liked, but recently bought a smaller Honda Civic because it gets better gas mileage.
Willman and Jordan say they take other precautions to save money.
“If we’re going out with our friends, we will car pool whenever possible,” William said.
In Naugatuck, Matt Tynan said the outrageous gas prices are making him think about trading in his two “gas guzzlers” for something older with high mileage. Since Tynan became a grandpa, and now makes regular trips out of town to visit the little ones, babysit or take the kids out for a day of fun, the high cost of gas is hitting home and forcing him to combine trips.
That’s where AAA’s final tip, No. 5: “Plan, Plan, Plan,” may come in handy for Tynan and others. According to experts, planning ahead before heading out to the store or another errand is crucial. Determining all the places you need to go on a particular day, and combining those multiple trips into one, can go far toward saving gas, AAA says.
Tynan just paid $4.05 per gallon at his local Stop & Shop, and that was with his discount card.
“I’m not doing anything yet (to address the rising costs), but I am contemplating leasing a high-mileage car,” he said. “I haven’t changed my driving habits up until this point, but this last fill-up reinforced that I’m going to have to.”
Just last week, Tynan paid a mere $3.75 per gallon; those were "the good old days," he quips.
“I just don’t know what this is all about," he said. "There seems to be no end in sight."