1 of 3
Tom Smart, Deseret News
Millcreek Automotive owner Dan Gates talks about how to improve a car's performance and mileage.

It isn't easy to ignore the rising cost of gasoline, yet some Utahns are, surprisingly, smiling as they fuel up.

In Utah the cost of gasoline is edging near $4, and Monday AAA reported that on average the price of gasoline is at $3.97 for regular fuel in Utah. Feeling the pinch, consumers are adjusting their driving habits, cutting entertainment from their budgets and searching for new ways to get more miles from the vehicles they are driving. How people cope with the rising cost of fuel seems to be related to the type of vehicle they are using for transportation though.

"I'm just tired of hearing about the price of gas," said Anthony Ball, a resident of Salt Lake County. "Other than that I'm not too concerned about what they do."

Ball's sentiments are due in large part to the fact that Monday it cost him just $5.30 to fill up his scooter with enough fuel to see him through the week. But even before purchasing his scooter five months ago Ball didn't watch fuel prices because he mostly relies on public transit or his bicycle for transportation; for him the scooter is a luxury that gets him around a little faster, he said.

To reduce his family's carbon footprint, Palmer DePaulis, executive director of the Utah Department of Community and Culture, purchased a Honda Civic that runs on natural gas. Monday, it cost DePaulis $3.03 to fill his vehicle. "I'm on my way for another couple hundred miles," he said.

Beyond savings, natural gas vehicles produce near zero emissions and receive tax cuts of about $7,000 from the state and federal governments. In the downtown area of Salt Lake, clean vehicles like DePaulis' are able to park at any meter free, a perk DePaulis counts among his favorites.

"I run around guilt-free on inversion days when they are telling everyone to leave their cars at home," DePaulis said. "Saving money wasn't my initial reason for buying this car, but it helps now."

While Ball and DePaulis may be using Utah roadways more because of their savings at the pump, the Federal Highway Administration reported that in March of 2008 the total number of vehicle miles traveled on Utah roadways had decreased 3.8 percent since last year.

Nationally too, drivers are cutting the distance they are traveling. For the first quarter of this year, the federal agency reported that the vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roadways had declined 2.3 percent.

Dennis Lee, a resident of Salt Lake County, has reduced the number of miles he travels in attempts to save more at the pump. He has traveled less by axing vacation plans and consolidating his errands into a single trip, he said. To fill his Chevrolet Blazer Monday it cost Lee more than $60. In 1995 when his car was new he recalled a full tank costing him only around $20. Lee said the extra cost in fuel is starting to come from money he had originally budgeted for recreation.

"I have a really good massage therapist, but I don't see him as often anymore," Lee said.

Recommendations that AAA offers to its members for maximizing the fuel efficiency of their vehicle include shopping aggressively for stations with cheap gas prices, steady acceleration and stopping and avoiding idling unnecessarily. Routine things AAA suggests are using gasoline additives, changing air filters and regularly checking the air pressure in tires.


E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com