Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Ovanes Terzyan of Duluth pumps gasoline into his pickup truck at the Shell gas station located on Indian Trail-Lilburn Road in Norcross on Wednesday. Terzyan, who spent $90 on almost 24 gallons of gas, said he has seen about a $15 increase when filling up at the pump compared to last week.
DACULA -- As he commutes from Winder to Atlanta every other day, Adrien Green said he's noticed a gas price spike in the last month.
"It's like 20- and 30-cent jumps, not like 5 and 10 cents," said Green, a Winder resident who stopped at the QuikTrip in Dacula off of Ga. Highway 316 on Tuesday afternoon.
Green said when gas prices rise, he makes a more concerted effort to consolidate trips, such as to the grocery store.
"If I have to go to the grocery store on the way home, I'm going to go to the most convenient one," Green said. "I'm not going to go home and try to go back to the grocery store."
Another QuikTrip customer in Dacula, Athens resident David Hyman, said he's ashamed to admit that he hasn't changed his driving habits, though he's looking to start. But one experiment he conducted told him others aren't jumping to carpooling. Hyman said on Monday that he counted 100 cars that passed him, but only one had more than one person inside.
Gas prices around metro Atlanta have hit a five-month high, and within a penny of the price that motorists have said changes their driving behavior. Jessica Brady, a spokeswoman with the AAA motor club, said the average price for a gallon of regular, unleaded gas was $3.74 last week, the highest it's been since Sept. 16.
"These are record-breaking prices," Brady said.
The national average is $3.78. five cents higher than a week ago, and 10 cents higher than a year ago this week, Brady said.
According to atlantagasprices.com, the cheapest gas in Gwinnett on Tuesday afternoon was at a Sam's Club on Buford Drive in Buford at $3.63. A Chevron station on Hurricane Shoals Road in Lawrenceville was the next cheapest at $3.65.
Brady said the price spike is because refineries have started maintenance season, which has cut supply, and retailers had delayed passing an increase of wholesale prices on to customers for about a month. March is typically when refineries switch to a summer blend, that is more expensive because it contains emissions for higher temperatures, Brady said.
Other factors that influence prices are Iran's nuclear program, and snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast, Brady said.
The Energy Information Administration forecasted a gas price peak for April, Brady said, but it may actually be in March. Brady said she expects a rate of increase to slow down from 15 to 20 cents per week, to five to seven.
Brady said AAA conducted a survey last year that revealed that motorists begin to make changes in their driving habits when gas prices reach $3.75. A cut into disposable income means people cut back on going out to eat, and consolidate errands. As prices move closer to $4, public transportation becomes more popular, Brady said.
Motorists like Green have already braced themselves for these prices.
"I don't think it will go down anytime soon," he said. "If it goes down, it'll be in the fall once it gets cold, (before then) $3.70 and $3.60 will be our average."