Pressure at the pump: Gas prices affect lifestyles, vacation plans

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2006

As she has done before, this summer Dee Cole sent her 15-year-old daughter to Daytona Beach, Fla., to spend time with extended family there. But this year, the trip was a little different.

&8220;Usually I would drive down to spend a few days with them and then bring her home,&8221; said Cole, who lives in Helena. &8220;But with the gas prices this year, we figured out that it was cheaper for her to fly.&8221;

Cole is not alone. With pump prices in Shelby County hovering around $2.80 per gallon, others are feeling the squeeze &8212; and tightening their belts.

Chris Hill, who commutes daily from Pelham to Homewood, said gasoline takes a chunk out of the family budget. To make up for it, he and his wife, Rachel, began bringing their three boys to the library more often.

&8220;Rather than renting movies at the store, we&8217;ll check them out at the library,&8221; Hill said. &8220;They have a great selection, and it&8217;s free.&8221;

Alabaster resident Amy Sanford said she offsets the cost of gas by entertaining at home more often.

&8220;Now instead of going out to a restaurant with friends, we have them over for a cookout,&8221; she said.

Sharing driving duties with friends and family members keeps expenses down for Aquila Harris of Helena.

&8220;I carpool whenever I can &8212; to work, shopping or anywhere else,&8221; she said.

Businesses that require frequent driving or utilize larger vehicles also feel the pinch.

Dwayne Ford, an employee of Southern Creations, a Shelby County landscaping firm, said he notices an increase now when filling up the company truck he drives. He said he has adjusted his driving habits to minimize costs.

&8220;We really have to watch how far we go, and make one trip whenever possible to eliminate back-and-forths,&8221; Ford said. &8220;Prices are high, and these trucks drink [gas].&8221;

Some locals said gas prices don&8217;t affect their household budgets or driving habits.

Although Betsy Garrett of Alabaster commutes 70 miles every day to her job in Cottondale and back, she said she is not &8220;upset personally&8221; by prices.

&8220;Hopefully they&8217;ll come back down,&8221; she said. &8220;I think they will.&8221;

Helena resident J.R. Wright said he doesn&8217;t plan to drive less or adjust his budget.

&8220;I&8217;m not really happy with prices, but we haven&8217;t cut back,&8221; he said. &8220;You just do what you have to do.&8221;


Making several small changes can help you get more miles to the gallon, said Clay Ingram, AAA Alabama spokesperson. Consider his advice for pumping up your fuel efficiency.

– Eliminate items that add excess weight.

– Remove unneeded luggage and bicycle racks, which create wind-resistance.

– Don&8217;t speed. &8220;Every five miles you go over 60 miles per hour is like paying an extra 10 to 12 cents per gallon,&8221; Ingram said.

– Never drive aggressively. Frequent acceleration and braking is not only dangerous, but it also wastes fuel.

– Buy the right grade of gasoline. Your owner&8217;s manual will tell you which type of fuel your car requires &8212; most likely regular octane.

– Monitor your tire pressure. &8220;Each pound of pressure your tire is under-inflated decreases fuel efficiency by 2 percent,&8221; Ingram said.

– Perform regular maintenance &8212; this includes changing air filters, replacing spark plugs, changing oil, and monitoring front-end alignment. Check your owner&8217;s manual for your car&8217;s specific requirements