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How do you spell gas pump relief? S-L-O-W D-O-W-N

WASHINGTON -- Jason Toews is the co-founder of GasBuddy.com, which helps people find cheap gas (if such a product actually exists). This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the summer driving season, when drivers traditio...

WASHINGTON -- Jason Toews is the co-founder of GasBuddy.com, which helps people find cheap gas (if such a product actually exists). This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the summer driving season, when drivers traditionally pay closer attention to gas prices.

This should be Toews' moment, his 15 minutes of fame, his day in the sun, his flash in the pan -- step right up and choose your cliche.

But with gas prices soaring, now topping $4 a gallon, it turns out that every day has become Toews' moment. "It will come up in virtually every conversation when people talk to me," he said. "It does get tiring if I am trying to enjoy a meal. But it's a subject that everyone is talking about. And gas prices are only going to go higher."

He cites statistics as if he were reading them off the back of a baseball card. When The Washington Post spoke to him Thursday, he noted that the average price per gallon had gone up 3.5 cents -- in 15 hours. "Thursday seems to be a pretty popular day to raise prices," Toews said, even when it's not Memorial Day weekend. He's such a gas man that he knows the days when prices go up! (Sunday and Wednesday are cheaper.)

More stats for the weary. The national average has gone from $3.20 a gallon to $3.80 in the same period, according to the American Automobile Association.


Susan Uttal, Potomac, Md., still is planning to take a trip to the Outer Banks this summer. "How can I change my vacation plans?" she said. "Stay home? That's not going to happen. I stay home enough. My basic traveling is from home to work."

So, how can drivers like Uttal get through these tough times? Is it cheaper to drive south or north for a vacation? What about luggage racks on the roof? Good idea or bad? How far should you drive for cheap gas? Will slowing down on the highway, the bane of many existences, really help?

We'll try to sort all that out. You're not in an action movie.

Oh sure, it looks like fun, driving away in a great escape scene, bad guys clinging to the roof. But that is so, so wrong. It is so bad for gas mileage. Edmunds.com, in a test of aerodynamics and fuel economy, recently proved this (using a vehicle with luggage -- not people --­ strapped to the roof).

The automotive Web site found that in testing on an SUV, putting a suitcase and cooler on the roof -- while driving at 65 mph -- dropped fuel economy from 27.2 mpg to 21.6 mpg. Here's why: Adding stuff on the roof increases the amount of car that has to fight through the wind, creating drag.

As Edmunds.com explained, "Aerodynamic drag increases in proportion to the square of speed, so doubling speed from 40 to 80 mph results in a quadrupling -- four times more -- of drag."

The holy grail: Finding 'cheap' gas.

The quickest way to compare prices is using the Internet. There's GasBuddy.com. There's Gaspricewatch.com. Mapquest and Google have interactive maps that allow drivers to see gas prices along their travel routes.


You can even get updated information on your phone or PDA. Click over to Gasbuddytogo.com on your Web-enabled phone. Or you can text message or

e-mail gas@gasbuddy.com with the City/State or Zip/Postal Code as the body of the message.

But the big question is: How far should you drive for cheaper gas? Of course, it would be downright Clark W. Griswold-like to drive too far because that would be defeating the purpose. BankRate.com has an elegant online calculator to help you figure out how far is too far before losing the benefit of the cheaper gas. Slowing down will take a little more time (a little), but it will save fuel?

Cathy Schaeff, a biologist at American University, usually sets her cruise control -- by the way, use cruise control! -- to 7 or 8 mph over the speed limit while on the highway.

But for her recent trip to Ontario, she scaled her speed back to 60 mph to save fuel.

"I live in the Washington D.C. area, so my normal mode is fast forward," she said. "It does take a conscious effort to slow down. Driving up to Canada, if it takes me an hour longer, it really isn't going to change my trip that much. But it is hard. It's irksome. I usually do things fast rather than slow."

AAA says: "Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon of gas. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas."

Trivial Pursuit: Gas version.


Which way is the cheapest direction to head gas-wise? Let's say you go north, headed for New York City. Let's say you need to fill up in New Jersey. At the Wawa at Woodbury Heights, off the New Jersey Turnpike, it will cost you $3.71 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.com.

What if you went South on I-95 and needed gas in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.? You would pay $3.96.

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