WASHINGTON — It's Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the summer driving season, when drivers traditionally pay closer attention to gas prices.
This should be Jason Toews' moment, his 15 minutes of fame.
Toews is the co-founder of GasBuddy.com, which helps people find cheap gas (if such a product actually exists).
But with gas prices soaring, now topping $4 a gallon, it turns out that every day has become Toews' moment.
"It will come up in virtually every conversation when people talk to me," he said. "It does get tiring if I am trying to enjoy a meal. But it's a subject that everyone is talking about. And gas prices are only going to go higher."
He cites statistics as if he were reading them off the back of a baseball card. He noted Thursday that the average price per gallon had gone up 3.5 cents — in 15 hours. "Thursday seems to be a pretty popular day to raise prices," even when it's not Memorial Day weekend, Toews said. Sunday and Wednesday are cheaper.
Susan Uttal of Potomac, Md., is still planning to take a trip to the Outer Banks this summer. "How can I change my vacation plans?" she said. "Stay home? That's not going to happen. I stay home enough. My basic traveling is from home to work."
So how can drivers like Uttal get through these tough times? What about luggage racks on the roof? Good idea or bad? How far should you drive for cheap gas? Will slowing down on the highway, the bane of many existences, really help?
Edmunds.com, in a test of aerodynamics and fuel economy, found that in testing on an SUV, putting a suitcase and cooler on the roof — while driving at 65 mph — dropped fuel economy from 27.2 mpg to 21.6 mpg. Here's why: Adding stuff on the roof increases the amount of car that has to fight through the wind, creating drag.
As Edmunds.com explained, "Aerodynamic drag increases in proportion to the square of speed, so doubling speed from 40 to 80 mph results in a quadrupling — four times more — of drag."
The quickest way to compare prices is using the Internet. But the big question is: How far should you drive for cheaper gas? Of course, to drive too far makes no sense. BankRate.com has an online calculator to help you figure out how far is too far before losing the benefit of the cheaper gas. Slowing down will take a little more time, but it will save fuel.
The American Automobile Association says: "Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon of gas. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas."