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RISMEDIA, June 1, 2010—Memorial Day weekend marked the start of summer driving season, and though gas prices typically rise this time of year, there are ways that drivers can increase their fuel efficiency and save money, says the Alliance to Save Energy.

At the current national average of $2.86 per gallon of regular gasoline, the cost per gallon is 55.5 cents more than at this time last year – so budget-conscious consumers will want to take steps to avoid filling up more often than necessary.

“Whether you’re taking a long road trip or just making a short pit stop at the grocery store, the key is driving efficiently,” says Alliance President Kateri Callahan. “In today’s economy, and at today’s gas prices, there are very real payoffs to making simple changes, not only in how you drive, but also in how many miles you drive and how you maintain your vehicle.”

Among a number of easy-to-implement solutions to consider when ready to hit the road, the Alliance suggests the following:

When Planning a Vacation

Choose the Right Vehicle. Whether you’re using your own or renting a vehicle, pick the one that gets the best gas mileage possible

Know Where You’re Going. Getting lost while driving can lead to an expensive waste of gas, as well as time. Consider investing in a GPS navigation system or using an online map service to find good directions.

Lighten the Load. Vacation travel usually means packing a full trunk. But an extra 100 pounds will reduce a typical vehicle’s mileage by up to 2% and cost you up to 12 gallons of gasoline per year – worth over $30 – if you fail to remove it.

Avoid Traffic by Shifting Driving Times. Plan to leave on the weekdays during off-peak work hours, in the very early morning or in the late evening to avoid rush-hour traffic jams and stop-and-go traffic. If you’re traveling on the weekends, try to beat the holiday crowds by hitting the road before the crack of dawn.

When You Hit the Road

Ease Up on the Gas Pedal. Speeding, rapid acceleration and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds. Drivers can save up to 91 cents per gallon of gasoline by driving sensibly on the highway.

Use Cruise Control. Making use of a car’s cruise control feature cuts fuel consumption in most cases.

Slow Down. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. In fact, each five mph over 60 is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas. So keep a moderate and steady pace on the highway.

Don’t Idle. You can’t get worse than 0 miles per gallon – which is what you get when your car is idling. So unless you’ll be stopping for less than a minute or so, turn off the engine while at the roadside.

Maintenance Tips before You Drive

Inflate Your Tires. Keeping your tires properly inflated is a simple measure to improve gas mileage by around 3%, for annual savings of up to 20 gallons of gasoline, or up to $45.

Use the Right Oil. Using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil, including re-refined motor oil, improves gas mileage by 1-2%, resulting in annual savings of up to $30.

Get a Tune-Up. Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%–saving up to 25 gallons of gasoline and about $55 in a year’s time. Fixing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve mileage by as much as 40%–saving up to 245 gallons of gasoline or up to $570.

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