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Editorial Cartoon

Cumberland Times-News

The summer driving season kicked off as a mixed-bag for motorists, with gas prices down from recent highs, but still significantly up from last summer.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the average price nationwide at the start of the Memorial Day weekend was $2.86 a gallon, about 75 cents higher than last year at this time. However, the price had fallen about a nickel from the previous week, and was about 20 cents lower than the all-time high, reached last fall in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

AAA officials attributed the relatively modest prices to refineries completing their conversion to summer fuels, as well as a large sell-off of oil in the global stock and commodities market. The market remains too volatile, though, for officials to speculate on what the rest of the summer will look like.

Already, though, gas prices are affecting summer travel plans.

Higher gas prices are expected to add $30 to $50 to the cost of a typical summer vacation. According to a recent poll by the National Retail Federation Association, 76 percent of Americans said gas prices have impacted their spending habits, and 37 percent said they plan to decrease vacation and/or travel as a result.

Unfortunately, gas prices aren't the only vacation expense that is increasing. Hotel rates are 5 percent higher than last year, rental car rates are up 19 percent, and air fare was 10 percent higher over Memorial Day.

It promises to be another challenging summer for motorists already pressed by higher gas prices. As the season kicks off, it might be best to adopt the attitude that works so well for our Western Maryland winters: As bad as it is, it could always be worse.

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