PAIN AT THE PUMP

ELKINS – With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend comes vacation season, and area businesses are giving advice as to how to save a little bit of cash at the gas pump.

Kevin Howell, of Lynn’s Self-Service, said gas prices usually change per season.

“We tend to see a slight increase from winter to spring,” he said. “Usually, it doesn’t fluctuate much beyond that.”

“What we are seeing is a rising fuel supply, which happens this time every year,” said Wayne Northey, a representative from the American Automobile Association branch in Bridgeport. “The refineries are switching from heating fuel to gasoline.

Northey said gasoline prices in West Virginia are averaging $3.76 per gallon for regular, while mid-grade gasoline is $3.88, premium is $4.04 and diesel is $4.14. In some areas of the Mountain State, prices are up as much as12 cents more than they were last year for regular gasoline, and prices in the state are on average approximately 10 cents higher than the national average, according the AAA’s official website.

Northey said this summer AAA is anticipating prices to go down, barring any sort of major catastrophe.

“We are pretty certain that we are going to be able to avoid that $4.00 mark this year, which is good news for people who want to travel this summer,” Northey said.

Northey talked about ways to save on gasoline this season.

“Driving the speed limit – which is recommended to be around 55-60 mph on most highways – for optimum gas mileage,” Northey said. “The cruise control settings on certain vehicles help drivers maintain a consistent speed.”

Northey said it is recommended to accelerate gradually rather than “jack-rabbitting” when the vehicle is stopped.

“Maintaining the recommended tire pressure for both front and rear tires is always a good idea,” Northey noted. “Usually this is posted in the driver’s side door on most cars along with the VIN (vehicle identification number).”

“This is contrary to what we were taught years ago, but on hotter days, running the air conditioning will help improve gas mileage instead of driving with windows open,” Northey continued. “This is due to the updated designs of vehicles as well as the air conditioners within them. Open windows create more air drag, making it more difficult for the vehicle to maintain speed. The same is true for vehicles with sun roofs or vehicles that are driven with their top down, such as convertibles and Jeeps.”

Kent Winn, service manager for Elkins Fordland, said keeping your vehicle up-to-par is a good way to ensure fuel efficiency.

“Keep your vehicle serviced, particularly before going on a long trip,” Winn said. “One factor that may affect gas mileage is the characteristics of the driver. We have people who come in and say ‘When my wife drives my car, she gets better mileage than me.’ I usually tell them that he and his wife most likely drive the vehicle differently and that has an affect on gas mileage.”

Local residents, like Stanley Watson, of Elkins, seem to be feeling the pinch at the pump as well. Watson says he, “is thinking about going camping his weekend,” but prices will play a factor in his vacation plans this year.

“I think it affects where you want to go for vacation,” he said. “It could prevent us from traveling out-of-state this year.”