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By DAMON LAWRENCE
In this day of record high gas prices, drivers are really looking to save.
One way is to drive slower.
“It’s not a myth,” said David Clifton of David Clifton Chevrolet-Buick-Pontiac in Rock-wood. “If you cut down on your speed, it will increase your gas mileage.”
Whether drivers are doing it is not exactly clear.
The number of speeding tickets issued by the Tennessee Highway Patrol was down over the first five months of 2008.
However, THP information officer Mike Browning called it a stretch to attribute the decline in speeding tickets to drivers looking to save on gas.
“There could be many reasons for the slight decline that have absolutely nothing to do with gas prices,” Browning wrote in an e-mail. “Activity is often influenced by manpower availability, training, court time, special assignments, etc.”
And many have noticed that there just seem to be fewer vehicles on the road.
From January through May, THP issued 57,710 speeding tickets. THP issued 61,788 speeding tickets over that same five-month period in 2007.
In Roane County, THP issued 1,549 speeding tickets from January through May of this year. That was also down from the 2,015 issued over the first five months of 2007.
Despite the statistics, state troopers haven’t noticed a slower approach from drivers on the roadways.
“To me it doesn’t seem any different, and to my guys working out here on the road, they haven’t mentioned anything about traffic slowing down,” said THP Sgt. Mike Melhorn, whose patrol district includes Roane County.
According to AAA, the national average for a regular gallon of gasoline was $4.06 on Thursday.
Clifton said fuel efficiency is one of the first questions prospective buyers ask when they visit his car dealership.
“People are real conscious about it now,” Clifton said.
That consciousness is not likely to change anytime soon.
A short term energy outlook issued by the Energy Information Administration said the national average for a regular gallon of gasoline is projected to peak at $4.15 in August.
Time is one reason people might not want to slow down.
“A lot of people value their time more than money,” said Jason Toews, co-founder of the Web site GasBuddy.com.
GasBuddy.com helps drivers find the cheapest gas in their city. Toews said the Web site is averaging 5 million hits per day, up by a million from January. The site also advises that slower driving can help save on fuel.
“It's a big, big, fuel saver,” Toews said. “If you drive 50 to 55 miles per hour on the highway, you're going to get the best fuel ec onomy for your vehicle versus driving 75 to 80 miles per hour.”
Melhorn said slowing down would also make the roads safer.
“It would make a difference,” Melhorn said. “Something needs to slow people down. If it takes something like high gas prices to do it, then so be it.”