Survey: Motorists Alter Budgets, Drive Less, Expect $5 Gas

STATE – Record-high pump prices are forcing motorists to adjust household budgets and alter driving habits while they wait for – and expect – even higher prices in the near future, according to results from a AAA Mid-Atlantic member survey.

In fact, seven in 10 AAA Mid-Atlantic members who completed the e-mail survey in early July said they have had to cut spending from other parts of their household budget to make up for the continued spike in gas prices.

Those who are reallocating household funds to pay for increased gas costs are spending fewer dollars on entertainment (87%) and personal shopping (81%) – such as for new home technology or work clothes. Leisure travel (62%) and home improvements (43%) took the next biggest hits as households move money around to pay for gas. Those surveyed were allowed to choose all that applied among six common household budget areas. More than four in 10 (41%) said they had cut back on food shopping.

“What’s clear is that many of us have no choice but to shift budgeted money to the gasoline account,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman David Weinstein said. “What’s interesting is that many of us expect those prices to climb even higher.”

For instance, nearly half of those who completed the survey (48%) believe it is very likely they will pay $5 per gallon for regular serve this year, while almost four in 10 (39%) believe it is likely.

“Nearly 90 percent believe it’s likely we’ll have $5 gas this year,” Weinstein said. “Here’s hoping they’re wrong.”
Other survey results show that current pump prices already are having a major impact, not only on household budgets and future outlook, but also on daily driving habits.

Almost a quarter of those who completed the survey (23%) said they would drastically cut back on driving at $4 per gallon.

Many New Jersey locales have been averaging $4+ gas for months, while the state average – after briefly hitting $4 last week – has hovered just below that threshold, at a steady $3.99 for weeks. However, three in 10 (30%) indicated that $5 per gallon gas is the threshold at which their driving habits will drastically change.
“We’ve already seen a marked decrease in vehicle miles traveled at current prices,” Weinstein said. “It will be interesting to see, if pump prices continue to rise, what additional reactions motorists have.”
Other survey findings include:
• Nearly eight in 10 (78%) answered that they have altered their driving habits. Of those –
• 81% said they were consolidating trips to cut costs
• 74% answering that they are driving fewer miles
• 32% indicated they were driving less aggressively to cut gas costs.
(Motorists were asked to choose all choices that apply)
The survey was completed by 379 AAA Mid-Atlantic members throughout the auto club’s footprint.

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