California has the dubious distinction of being home to the highest gas prices in the country as millions of people in the state prepare to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend.
AAA estimates that a record 3.2 million Southern Californians will head out of town for all or part of the three-day weekend, and they can expect to pay hefty prices for gas across the state.
As of Thursday, motorists are paying an average of $3.72 a gallon at the pump in California. That’s a few pennies ahead of Hawaii and roughly 30 cents more than Washington, which have the second and third highest gas prices in the country, the latest figures from AAA show.
In Los Angeles County, the average cost for a gallon of regular unleaded is slightly above the state average, coming in about $3.76 per gallon, according to a news release from the Automobile Club of Southern California. That’s about an increase of a penny since last week, but still well below the record price of $4.70 set in October 2012.
Drivers in Ventura County are spending about $3.74 a gallon for gas, up two cents since last week.
Orange County motorists are also paying slightly less to fill up their tanks. Even with a two-cent increase from last week’s average price, the cost is still about $3.73.
Gas is cheaper in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where drivers can expect to pay about $3.70 a gallon.
Overall, gas prices ticked up slightly across the state just ahead of the long weekend.
“Wholesale gas prices have retreated slightly from their 52-week high point reached on May 10, but so far that hasn’t been enough to push down prices at the pump,” Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring explained in the release.
Still, he said, there's something drives can do to help improve their gas mileage: slow down.
“The Auto Club reminds holiday weekend drivers that driving just five miles above the freeway speed limit of 65 miles per hour will reduce their fuel economy by about nine percent,” Spring said.
In fact, a study conducted by the Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center determined that a vehicle going 70 mph instead of 65 mph had a reduction in fuel economy of about 9 percent. As ARC Manager Megan McKernan put it, that ends up costing the driver approximately 38 cents more per gallon. And that can add up quickly.
“Adding it up comes to a difference of about $168 annually, while paying $3.75 per gallon. And that is just for a modest 5 miles per hour increase—it gets much more expensive the faster you go - $309 at 75 miles per hour and $491 at 80 miles per hour,” McKernan said.