Hot dogs, fireworks, patriotism...and traffic

The Fourth of July is coming up this weekend – and it will be marked by higher gas prices.

AAA expects the national average of regular gas (self-serve) to range from $2.70 to $2.80 per gallon this holiday weekend. And although those prices will make even the most intrepid traveler wince, they're still not as bad as the $4 per gallon drivers had to pay in in July two years ago.

There will be more people on the road this weekend that this time last year, AAA says, despite the high cost of fuel. About 34.9 million people will travel at least 50 miles from their homes. Only 29.8 million road-tripped last year during the same time period. The holiday travel period this year is defined as July 1-5.

Travel experts say airports will be busy as well, but most people will be driving to their destinations. AAA said air travel is flat when compared with last year's figures, and airline rates are up 13 percent. The reason people are driving and not flying, according to AAA, is that Monday is a holiday for some but not all. People will want to stick closer to home if they have to be at work on Monday.

So if you're heading out this weekend and are concerned about high gas prices, get smart about savings at the pump. Choose the right octane at the pump. For most cars, regular octane is just fine. Using a higher octane than recommended offers no real benefit and costs you more. Unless your engine is knocking, use regular.

Stay away from gas saving gadgets promising to increase your mileage. The Environmental Protection Agency has tested many of them and found them to be of no use. Some can even damage your vehicle.

Stay within the speed limit; gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 mph. You should also avoid unnecessary idling. It wastes fuel and pollutes the environment. You can improve your in-town gas mileage up to 5 percent by driving "gently." Use your overdrive and cruise control; they improve fuel economy.

Check your tires, replace your air filter, keep your engine tuned, and change your oil regularly. Doing so will improve the performance of your vehicle and will increase your mileage.

You should clean out the back of your vehicle as well. Extra weight in the back can reduce fuel economy. Combine your errands, and consider carpooling at least some of the time. You may even want to consider taking the bus, riding your bike or walking.

Whatever your plans this weekend, play it safe.
Published Wednesday, June 30, 2010 1:44 PM by bulldog
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