For Americans, $3.44 is now the new ‘normal’ for high gas prices

When gas hits about $3.44 a gallon, half of US adults say that’s when they feel pain at the pump, says a new National AAA consumer price index.

AAA’s new gas-price index that tracks consumer attitudes also reports the mid-$3 mark has now become the new “normal” for many motorists, who once considered $3 a gallon as their lifestyle tipping point.

When national prices reach the mid-$3 mark, more than two-thirds (62%) of Americans say they change their driving habits to offset these high prices and according to the open-ended survey, here’s how:

• Driving less — 86%

• Reducing shopping or dining out — 71%

• Driving a more fuel-efficient car — 54%

• Delaying major purchases — 53%

• Working closer to home — 39%

• Carpooling — 33%

• Using public transportation more regularly — 15%

• Other — 18%

The index also reports that young consumers between 18 and 34 are more likely to offset high gas prices by working closer to home (48%) or using public transportation more regularly (25%) compared to adults over 35 years of age. Thirty-five percent of older Americans would work closer to home while 10% said they’d use public transportation rather than their own car.

Today’s national average price of gasoline is $3.52 a gallon, 15 cents lower than a month ago and 34 cents lower than year ago. It has, however,  remained above $3 for 28 consecutive months. While national prices haven’t surpassed $4 a gallon since 2008, it’s not uncommon for motorists living on the West Coast, in Northeast and near the Great Lakes to pay more than that.

In Connecticut, the average price of gas today is $3.72, (April 23) compared to 19 cents lower than a month ago and 42 cents lower than a year ago. In the state’s four metro regions — Greater Bridgeport, Greater Hartford, Greater New Haven/Meriden, and Greater New London/Norwich — prices average a high of $3.84 to a low of $3.64.

AAA developed the price index by asking respondents in a telephone survey a series of open-ended questions asking respondents at what prices do they start to consider gasoline prices as too high. Respondents also were asked to state the specific price per gallon to determine the potential consumer breaking point for high gas prices.

AAA Southern New England has 46 offices in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Massachusetts and provides more than 3.5 million members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services such as driver’s license renewals, international driving permits and theme park and movie ticket sales. In Connecticut, the territory includes Fairfield, New Haven, and Litchfield Counties.