Gas Prices Have Many Running on Empty

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com
    A gas station's prices on Virginia Avenue.

    If soaring gas prices have you running on empty, you're not alone.

    And AAA Mid-Atlantic says that more and more drivers are running out of gas on area roads because of it.

    AAA said the volume of emergency roadside assistance calls from motorists who have run out of fuel has gone up 39 percent in the District compared to the same time last year. Calls in Maryland have gone up nearly 37 percent, while Virginia calls have gone up 27.5 percent.

    AAA is blaming a 30-cent increase in gas prices in the past month, and a 98-cent increase from the same time a year ago.

    "In the wake of the high cost of gasoline some consumers are trying to push the envelope, but running on fumes can put you into the harm’s way, leave you stranded, and severely damage your vehicle,” said John Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs.

    Besides the annoyance of running out of gas while trying to get to your destination, it also might hurt your vehicle. AAA said running on empty could cause the electric fuel pump in the fuel tank to overheat, leading to a $500 bill to replace it.

    AAA said a gallon of gas averages $4.05 in D.C., $3.90 in the D.C. metro region and $3.84 nationally.

    "Even worse, running your vehicle on low may cause sediment in the bottom of the tank, clogging the fuel pump pickup, the fuel filter or the fuel injectors, leading to expensive repairs that otherwise could have been prevented," Ed Kriston, an ASE Master Technician with AAA Mid-Atlantic Automotive Services, said in a press release.

    Some AAA safety tips:

    • Keep an eye on the fuel gauge; don’t let it run down to less than a quarter of a tank.
    • Driving consistently on a near-empty tank could cause sediment in the tank to clog the fuel pump, the fuel pump pickup, the fuel filter, or even your fuel injectors or related components. In addition, the fuel pump could overheat and fail.
    • Be alert when your mileage drops so you can take corrective action to restore your vehicle’s fuel economy.
    • Don’t touch or pump the gas pedal repeatedly when trying to start a vehicle that’s run out of fuel.
    • Drive as fuel-efficiently as possible.
    • If you do run out of gasoline, pull off the highway or freeway as far to the right as possible and call for help.