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More Georgians running out of gas

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Statewide, consumers are feeling the pinch at the pump - and in more ways than one, according to surveys collected by regional auto clubs.

The Allstate Motor Club recently released the results of a survey, saying the number of Georgians running out of gas on the highway has jumped by 51 percent in the first five months of this year, compared to the same time last year.

The reports says that, from January through May, Georgians called the motor club for fuel delivery 298 times. Nationally, calls to Allstate Motor Club by drivers who run out of gas are up by 52 percent so far this year, compared to last.

"We can't directly correlate this rise in the number of people running out of gas to the rise in prices at the pump," said Allstate Spokesman John Heid. "But, anecdotally, we know that consumers are trying hard to stretch their dollar, and sometimes that means stretching fuel into fumes."

Nationwide, the average price for a gallon of gas is up more than a dollar from a year ago. On Wednesday, gas prices sustained an average $4.06 per gallon of regular unleaded, with diesel prices topping $4.77 per gallon. Just a year ago, the prices averaged $2.97 and $2.90, respectively.

Gas prices in Georgia - at $3.99 Wednesday and $2.87 a year ago - have been fairly consistent with national averages.

Metro Atlanta has seen some relative relief in gas prices, down to $4 per gallon from the record $4.03 per gallon of regular unleaded set on June 11. Diesel is down to $4.79, from a record $4.81 set on June 16.

In response to the suddenly higher gas prices, President George Bush has asked Congress to allow off-shore access to domestic oil reserves that have been off-limits to producers. The move, in the short-term, could increase market confidence. Long-term, giving access to the nation's off-shore oil fields would increase the domestic oil supply.

Many consumers, however, are stretching their dollars now, and some are simply running out of gas on the highway.

"Drivers should remember running out of gas on the highway can be a lot more than an inconvenience; it can be hazardous," Heid said. He added that the average wait time for a can of gas is half an hour, which can mean extended roadside risks.

Allstate Motor Club roadside assistance experts say running out of gas increases the risk of much more serious accidents for drivers with the empty tank, and other motorists who suddenly have to maneuver around the mistake.

Consumers are also starting to feel the pain of rising gas prices in the air.

"Airlines are changing policies and may charge economy class fliers for checking any luggage," said Dianne Ferrar, director of Lodging Programs AAA Auto Club South.

As fuel prices continue to soar for airlines, passengers are getting the residuals in increased costs and conservation. Airline passengers who over-pack their luggage may be charged additional fees for overweight luggage and for checking more than one bag.

"These extra fees can be avoided by planning ahead and making a packing list that avoids redundancies and minimizes the potential for over-packing," Ferrar said. "Many folks can improve how they pack by taking a few packing tips from the experts that really understand how to get the most in your one suitcase, without getting wrinkles and without paying overweight fees."

AAA offers a packing demonstration on its web site that illustrates in detail how to properly pack a carry-on bag in accordance with TSA guidelines.

According to AAA, many airline passengers traveling with families may be packing old luggage that can weigh a lot before they pack it. Officials suggest weighing suitcases before packing them to be sure they meet current, stricter, travel requirements. New luggage may cost travelers less then potential overweight fees.

Tips on saving by packing light

Organization may decrease the amount of luggage needed for trips. Packing organizers for wet items, toiletries, and shoes can help save space. TSA-approved 3-ounce travel bottles for liquids must be placed in a one-quart, transparent, sealed, plastic bag.

Tips on conserving gasoline

Drive slower. Speeding and rapid acceleration and braking waste gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, every five miles per hour that a person drives over 60 miles per hour is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon for gas.

Avoid keeping unnecessary items in a car. One hundred extra pounds of weight in a car can reduce gas mileage by up to 2 percent. Checking and replacing air filters can improve a car's gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, and will help protect the engine. Also, keeping car tires properly inflated can improve gas mileage by roughly 3 percent.

Also, make fewer trips to run multiple errands. Use carpools, mass transit, and telecommuting alternatives, or stagger the work commute to avoid peak rush hours.

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On the net:

U. S. Department of Energy:

www.doe.gov

Allstate Motor Club:

www.allstatemotorclub.com

AAA Auto Club South:

www.aaa.com/luggage