Even with falling gas prices, Americans driving less

Americans aren't guzzling gas like they used to, even though prices have dropped below $2 a gallon and are well below what they were last summer and a year ago.

While the drop may be simply tied to the poor economy, a recent Gallup poll found that 52% of Americans are driving less even though gas prices are now about 45% lower than they were a year ago, according to a Marketwatch story.

The lower the income, the more likely people were to drive less. Gallup found that consumers earning less than $75,000 a year were most likely to consolidate trips and drive less overall, mainly because gasoline eats up a larger percentage of their incomes. Of those who made less than $30,000 a year, 69% said they changed their habits and 68% of those in the $30,000 to $74,000 annual income range. For families making $75,000 or more, 56% said they changed their habits.

There are fewer commuters as jobs have been lost, and people are taking shorter or fewer vacations, requiring less trips to the gas station.

If the good driving habits continue and gas consumption continues decreasing, that could be good news in the long-term for consumers. The savings could be like money in the bank, or could be spent elsewhere. With a push by auto makers to increase fuel economy with hybrid vehicles, that could also lead to less gasoline usage.

Ford Motor Co., for example, this week introduced a hybrid sedan that it says gets 41 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mph on the highway. The Fusion Hybrid will go on sale in the spring for about $27,000 and can go about 700 miles on a tank of gas.

Aaron Crowe is an unemployed journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Read about his job search at www.talesofanunemployeddad.blogspot.com

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