As gasoline prices have bounced rapidly over the past few years, Dan Lindsay has made little change to his driving habits.
“You still have to go to work, and you still have to do what you need to do,” said Lindsay, who lives in Oklahoma City and works in Edmond.
As prices have surged over the past six years, Lindsay has paid attention, but he said there is little he can do to change the distance he has to drive.
“If anything, it makes you think about vehicle purchases,” he said. “I don’t think my driving habits have changed much, but I won’t buy a full-size pickup because of gasoline prices.”
Lindsay is typical of a growing number of Americans, according to an AAA survey released Thursday.
The study found that Americans have become less likely to change their driving habits or lifestyle because of gas prices. About half of American adults are doing something to offset gas prices, down about 15 percent from one year ago.
“We’ve just all matured to the point where we realize high gas prices are here to stay,” AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai said. “It’s not what we want to see happen, but I think we realize that given the nature of global oil supplies and geopolitics involved, it’s what we can expect.”
Of the half of the survey respondents who said they are changing their driving habits, most said they are doing so by combining errands, driving less and reducing shopping or dining out.
“When prices rose to $3.96 in July 2008, that got our attention,” Mai said. “Then finally all those lessons of conservation were taken to heart. I’m not saying we’re forgetting about those things now. We’re doing what we can to stretch our fuel dollars, but we’re taking longer trips and driving more now than we have over the past few years.”
Gasoline demand increased 1.1 percent in 2013, marking the largest annual increase since 2006, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Vehicle miles traveled in 2013 added an estimated 18.1 billion miles, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Drivers aren’t happy
While an increasing number of people apparently are not changing their habits, it doesn’t mean they’re happy about the situation.
The survey showed that at $3.30 a gallon, 50 percent of respondents say the price is too high. At $4, that number jumps to 91 percent.
The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Oklahoma City settled at nearly $3.41 Thursday, according to AAA’s fuelgaugereport.com.
The price was down just more than a penny from the day before and up less than a penny from the previous week.
“I would not be surprised if we are at or near the peak spring price,” Mai said. “Given the fact that so many refineries began transitioning to summertime fuels earlier this year — some as early as January and February — it makes sense that they will be finished sooner.”
Refiners shut down for at least two weeks every spring as they prepare to make cleaner-burning and more expensive summer-blend fuels. While many of the country’s refineries have completed the work, about a dozen refineries along the Gulf Coast are still undergoing maintenance.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Mai said. “But the process has begun, and I don’t see any problems that should dramatically impact production.”