Driving Still Popular Despite Gas Prices
Queens families aren’t letting the price of a gallon of gasoline keep them home this summer. “Gas prices are climbing into record territory, but that’s not holding people back,” Robert Sinclair of the Automobile Club of New York said. Sinclair postulated that American families regard the two weeks of vacation a year they average as sacrosanct and aren’t about to let gas prices interfere with their plans. “A family of four on a car trip spends between $200 and $400 a day on food, lodging and incidentals,” Sinclair said. “The hike in gas prices adds $14 or $15 to the total. That’s the price of a large pizza. People are willing to spend that much.”
The AAA conducted a nationwide survey in March of this year asking people how high gas prices would have to go before they started making concessions such as shorter trips, car pooling, taking public transportation and other conservation and money-saving measures. Sinclair said that 43 percent of the survey respondents said they had already undertaken such measures, for the most part in their commutes to work. “They told us they had already made changes in their workaday transportation,” Sinclair said. “They didn’t see gas prices having any effect on their leisure travel.”
Based on the AAA TripTiks, routings which provide customized door-to-door directions, information on road conditions, attractions, rest stops and more, that AAA members ordered from the Garden City-based organization in July, most families were planning car trips at least 100 miles away from their New York City homes. The number one destination in July was Washington D.C., Sinclair said, followed by Williamsburg, Virginia, Hershey, Pennsylvania, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada and Boston, Massachusetts. Sinclair noted that Las Vegas, Nevada ranks 17 on the list, and is followed closely by Los Angeles, California in popularity for a car trip destination. “More people are heading west than are driving to Philadelphia,” Sinclair said.
At last count, approximately 186,000 people were known to be members of the Queens chapter of the AAA. Sinclair pointed out that the benefits of membership in the organization extend even to people who don’t own cars. “If you decide to take a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, for example, by the time you make reservations through us and take advantage of all our discount packages for plane tickets, car rental, hotel accommodations, admission to attractions and so on, you’ll have saved the cost of your membership dues for a year,” he said.
According to AAA figures, as of August 4, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.587, a gallon of gasoline in the middle octane rating range was $2.768 and a gallon of premium gasoline cost $2.82. A gallon of diesel fuel averaged $2.745. The highest recorded price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $2.592 as of July 28; as of July 22 the highest recorded price of a gallon of diesel fuel was $2.756. A year ago a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.177, mid-range octane rating $2.329 and premium $2.378. Diesel fuel was $1.992 per gallon.