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The Economic and Environmental Impact of Fuel Prices on Driving Habits

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With the ever-present news of the United States' faltering economy, Americans have been looking for ways to save money. Additionally, the recent spike in gas prices forced drivers to be aware of the financial impact of their driving habits. Even though gas prices have gone back down, many drivers continue to maintain conservative driving techniques.

Gas-Saving Techniques

With gas prices surpassing $4.00 per gallon, drivers had to find creative methods to conserve. Simple changes in driving style, along with a reduction in the amount of driving, have helped numerous motorists ease the expense of driving.

Gas-conservation techniques include:

  • Combining multiple errands into one trip
  • Driving at 60 mph or less on the highway
  • Accelerating and decelerating slowly
  • Shutting off the vehicle rather than idling
  • Using cruise control
  • Maintaining proper tire pressure
  • Carpooling
  • Walking, biking or using public transportation
  • Telecommuting/working from home
  • Staying home, rather than taking a road-trip vacation

These relatively simple strategies have helped countless drivers save money. They have also had a positive impact on our environment by adding fewer pollutants into the air. While such measures can seem difficult to follow at first, they quickly become second nature. Keeping them as part of the daily routine, even after gas prices drop, has many positive consequences.

The Lasting Effects of Gas-Saving Techniques

A side effect of gas-conserving driving techniques is a reduction in the severity of auto accidents. A crash on a busy highway, for instance, is less likely to be deadly at a lower speed. And with fewer drivers on the road, there is naturally a lower chance of collisions in the first place. Auto accidents also cause fewer fatalities because of the steady improvement in car safety features, such as airbags, antilock brakes, and steering and suspension systems. With these trends continuing, the roads will be safer for everyone.

A recent Gallup poll ("Despite Cheaper Gas, New Driving Habits Sticking," December 30, 2008) shows that Americans are reluctant to go back to their old, gas-guzzling ways. They are wary of gas prices, even though the prices are lower at the moment, and they want to save money in an uncertain economy.

The Future of Energy

Even though gas prices have fallen, the recent spike led consumers and industry to think more seriously about alternative energy resources. Hybrid cars are likely to become more popular and cheaper. Alternative fuels, such as ethanol, will be further developed.

The oil industry, in turn, may suffer, with the oil coalitions will becoming less powerful. Investments in alternative energy will be time and money well spent for entrepreneurs and researchers.


Although the weak economy and rapidly fluctuating gas prices have made life more difficult for many people, road safety and energy conservation have improved. If we maintain our better habits even after the economy improves, we will have taken a valuable lesson from these uncertain times.

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