By KATHY DAY
Think gas prices are high around here?
Then don’t try driving in Hawaii, California or Oregon. But do feel free to get behind the wheel in South Carolina or Oklahoma.
The Bellevue office of the American Automobile Association released its preholiday price survey Thursday and, to no one’s surprise, it shows that prices in the area are higher than they were at Labor Day when the last survey was conducted.
There’s a little good news in the statewide average. AAA found the average price of $1.70 for a gallon of regular unleaded is three cents lower than a month ago. The other side of the coin shows that a year ago Washington residents and visitors were paying about $1.40 a gallon as Thanksgiving approached.
The national average is $1.55 for a gallon of unleaded gas, 28 cents more than a year ago.
The association’s survey of Everett stations puts the average at about $1.68 a gallon, about 31 cents more than last Thanksgiving. Seattle and Lynnwood prices are the Puget Sound area’s highest, at nearly $1.73 a gallon, up 36 cents.
However, compare the state average against Hawaii’s price of just over $2 a gallon, California’s $1.81 and even Oregon’s $1.76 and it may seem like a bargain. If you’re really into bargain hunting, though, you’ll have to travel to Oklahoma or South Carolina to find the nation’s lowest prices of about $1.40 a gallon.
Despite the prices, auto club officials say they expect 38.9 million Americans to travel more than 100 miles from their homes over the holiday weekend, 4 percent more than a year ago. The majority of those — 31.6 million, 5 percent more than last year — will be driving. The number of people resorting to planes, trains or buses will stay about the same.
Air fares have risen an average of 13 percent since last Thanksgiving, the AAA notes in projections that are based on a survey of 1,300 adults by the Travel Industry Association.
Tim Hamilton, executive director of the Automotive United Trades Organization, which tracks gas prices across the country, says the frustration that many drivers voiced last spring when prices skyrocketed is being muted by inability to control the situation.
"It takes quite a bit of an increase to force consumers to cut back. They don’t necessarily like it, but they don’t think they have the ability to do anything about it," he said Thursday.
And, as the auto club’s Sandra Hughes said, "Thanksgiving is a special time for most Americans and higher transportation costs are not going to discourage them from visiting family and friends or using the four-day holiday to take a vacation."
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