The days of wild swings in gasoline prices are just a Mideast crisis away. During the first three weeks of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, gasoline prices rose an average of a penny a day.

Consumers who can't reduce their driving and plan to keep their current car for a while still can cut fuel costs by using a little common sense and spending a little time on their vehicle.One of the best ways to conserve gasoline is to organize a driving route before starting out. If planned carefully, a driver can avoid backtracking, which wastes gasoline and time.

Also choose a time of day when traffic is lightest to avoid getting involved in any fuel-wasting traffic jams.

The U.S. Auto Club of Dallas says trips of five miles or less make up 15 percent of the driving in the United States and consume 30 percent of all fuel.

Planning also pays off when getting ready for a trip. The less packed into the trunk, the less weight the car has to haul. Try to avoid rooftop loads, which increase wind resistance and gobble fuel.

Proper maintenance of a vehicle also can save gallons of gasoline. Keep tires inflated to recommended pressures, be sure the air filter is clean, keep the engine tuned and change oil according to the manufacturer's recommendations.

"When a car needs maintenance, it typically will use 5 (percent) to 25 percent more gas than when it's well cared for," says Ken Lehman, chairman of the Car Care Council in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Once on the road, motorists can get more miles per gallon by driving sensibly. The U.S. Auto Club and vehicle manufacturers offer these fuel-efficient driving tips:

- After starting the car in cold weather, let it warm up no longer than 30 seconds. When driving with a cold or cool engine, avoid sudden accelerations if possible.

- Allow the car to idle for no more than a minute or two. Waiting in a drive-in bank line or at a railroad crossing with a long train crawling by can eat fuel needlessly.

- Avoid quick accelerating or braking.

- Use the same foot to control the accelerator and the brake, which would eliminate the possibility of "riding the brake."

- Drive at steady speeds whenever possible.

- Use the air conditioner for highway driving but turn it off and open the windows at lower speeds. According to General Motors Corp., air drag created by open windows at 50 mph or more can cause more fuel consumption than the extra gas used when an air conditioner is on and windows are closed.