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  • Can High Gas Prices Be Good?

    When I first started driving as a teenager, gas was only $.99/gallon. And the car I drove was a Chevy Chevette. Not too glamorous, but I could get to school, work, and play for about five dollars a week. Yes, times have changed, but I think they changed a lot more than any one expected in the way of gas prices. So, what now? Back to the horse and buggy days? Is there a bright side to the extreme prices at the pump? High gas prices do bring some round-about benefits, though it may take an optimistic view to see them.

    High gas prices are teaching some to be better drivers. Instead of quickly accelerating to every stop light and then braking shortly, they've learned to save gas by accelerating gradually and coasting to an easy stop. And some states are even reporting fewer speeding tickets and deaths from auto accidents. Those drivers may only be doing it to save gas, but it's good to reduce the number of aggressive drivers on the road, no matter the reason they change their driving habits.

    High gas prices are helping the biking community be more visible, and more safe. Those on two wheels always have to be very alert to the possibility of a driver that just isn't paying attention. More motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles on the road means that riders have more opportunities to ride in packs for ultimate visibility. When drivers get used to seeing lots of riders on the road, they may begin to understand the potential danger of being on a bike on a road full of cars, and learn to give bikes full respect as another vehicle.

    High gas prices are helping to reduce traffic. Between the carpoolers, those that choose to start working from home, and those who take jobs closer to home or move closer to work, the rush hour traffic is becoming less dense. Fewer cars on the road makes it easier for the cars that are left to get from one place to the next, and means less time sitting in stopped traffic. Thousands of cars just idling on the freeway is bad for the environment and for our stress levels, so this is definitely a good thing.

    High gas prices are helping us get healthier. Walking or riding a bike is not only free, but it's good for our health. Some of us refuse to walk anywhere, but then pay for a monthly gym membership. How does that make sense? Even if you live in the suburbs or country where a car is a necessity, you can still save money on fuel and get healthier. Park at the first space you see and walk the rest, rather than driving around for five minutes looking for a closer spot. Or do all your shopping at a strip mall, where everything you need is within walking distance from your car.

    High gas prices are helping some people make friends through carpooling. Those that have a long commute are finding people to share fuel expenses with. Though the intent is to save money, some find that carpooling helps to meet their social needs, even if they don't have much time for other activities. Long drives with others gives commuters some social time before and after work. Chatting with others is good for reducing stress levels, and gives carpoolers a chance to unwind by talking to others before they get home.

    High gas prices are helping on-line business and catalog sales companies. Many prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home, rather than driving around and wasting gas looking for what they want. Not only will you save money on gas, you'll often get a better price for the item you want, since those companies don't have the additional overhead costs involved in having a retail store.

    High gas prices are encouraging families to stay home and spend more time with each other. Cheap gas prices make it easy for every one in the household to go their separate ways and do their own thing. Now, the backyard barbecue or the group bike ride are becoming more popular. Even if families decide to go out, they're planning out their trips in advance and all going together more often, rather than impulsively going out when they feel like it.

    High gas prices are forcing consumers to put their financial priorities in order. Our economy that thrives on consumer spending may take another hit from this, but the alternative would be for people to continue spending more than they can afford with the help of loans and credit cards. Rising debt is already unmanageable for many, and now the additional cost of driving adds to the expense. Discipline and good money management are important no matter what the price of gas, but some are beginning to understand how practicing a little frugality can be good.

    Yeah, I know. No matter how I twist it, it still hurts when it takes $60 to fill the tank. It's also unfortunate when an SUV owner wants to downsize - even if it means they have to cram the whole family into a mid-size car - and then finds out they can't even sell the big gas guzzler at all. It's also a bad situation when someone owns a home in the country and has to commute to the city just to pay the bills. We're all in the same kind of situation; gas prices are doing some damage to our way of life. Horse and buggy, anyone?
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