The rise in gas prices hits home every time I go to the gas station. Not long ago, a tankful used to cost about $ 30 ; nowadays it’s over $60 and still rising. And , of course, the rising price of gas effects every thing else.
One consequence of high gas prices is that people seem to be driving less, much less. The roads are perceptibly less crowded than they used to be just a few months ago. We drove to New York City last Sunday to visit a relative and I was amazed at how easy it was to get through the Lincoln Tunnel. Normally, even on Sundays, there is a 15-20 minute delay at the tunnel; this time we breezed through almost without having to stop. At first I thought it was because it was a Sunday but I then realized it was something more than that; people are trying to cut back on their driving. Even though I’m not conscious of cutting back, I find that I fill up the tank every 20 days, less often than I used to.
Locally, the roads are definitely less busy. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say traffic is about 30-40% less. At times, it feels like driving around at Easter Sunday or on Super Bowl Sunday. This causes me to wonder… what is all this driving that people have cut out ? Were they just driving around for the heck of it ? Is driving a ‘ leisure activity’ just like shopping is ? And how long will they continue to restrain themselves?People have a tendency to get used to anything. Previously, when gas prices reached the $ 2.50 level, people thought twice about buying gas guzzling SUV’s. Then , as soon as the prices slipped to the $ 2.00 level, they went back to their old habits and today there are more heavy SUV’s on the roads than ever. Now, auto manufacturers seem to have been hit hard and SUV sales are way down,so much so that Detroit is offering discounts of as much as $ 8,000 to SUV buyers. It will be interesting to see if $ 4 gas signals the end of our love affair with SUV’s or if this only a temporary phenomenon.