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November/December2016 Issue

Splurging on premium gas is a waste of money, AAA study finds

American drivers wasted more than $2.1 billion dollars in the last year by using premium-grade gasoline in vehicles designed to run on regular fuel, according to new AAA research.

With 16.5 million U.S. drivers having used premium fuel despite the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation in the last 12 months, AAA conducted a comprehensive fuel evaluation to determine what, if any, benefit the practice offers to consumers. After using industry-standard test protocols designed to evaluate vehicle performance, fuel economy, and emissions, AAA found no benefit to using premium gasoline in a vehicle that only requires regular-grade fuel.

“Drivers see the ‘premium’ name at the pump and may assume the fuel is better for their vehicle,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “AAA cautions drivers that premium gasoline is higher octane, not higher quality, and urges drivers to follow the owner’s manual recommendations for their vehicle’s fuel.”

Some high-performance engines are designed to operate on premium fuel and need the higher octane. Yet AAA’s study found that vehicles designed to run on regular gasoline cannot take advantage of the higher octane rating or produce more horsepower using premium fuel.

AAA tested several cars with different engine sizes and designed to operate on regular-grade fuel. Each vehicle was tested on a dynamometer, which is essentially a treadmill for cars, to measure horsepower, fuel economy, and tailpipe emissions when using both fuel types and a variety of driving conditions. The testing found no significant increases in any category, indicating that using premium gasoline when it’s not required offers no advantage.



Debris is deadly for motorists

Whether it’s an improperly secured ladder or a tire whose lug nuts weren’t tightened, items that fell off vehicles on U.S. roadways in the last four years resulted in more than 200,000 crashes, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

AAA is calling for drivers to properly secure their loads to prevent dangerous debris because those crashes resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths between 2011 and 2014.

In the study, research found that nearly 37 percent of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object. Overcorrecting at the last minute to avoid debris can increase a driver’s risk of losing control of the vehicle and make a bad situation worse.

“This new report shows that road debris can be extremely dangerous, but all of these crashes are preventable,” said Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Drivers can easily save lives and prevent injuries by securing their loads and taking other simple precautions to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.”

About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance and unsecured loads. Crashes involving vehicle-related debris increased 40 percent since 2001, when the Foundation first studied the issue. The most common types of vehicle debris are:

  • Parts becoming detached from a vehicle, such as wheels or pieces of tire
  • Unsecured cargo, such as furniture
  • Tow trailers becoming separated

Drivers can decrease their chances of being involved in a road debris crash by maintaining their vehicles. Drivers should have their vehicles checked regularly by trained mechanics, who can spot worn or underinflated tires that can lead to blowouts, as well as exhaust systems that are corroded and could break loose.

Also, make sure to secure vehicle loads. When moving or towing furniture, drivers should:

  • Tie down load with rope, netting or straps directly to the vehicle or trailer.
  • Cover the entire load with a sturdy tarp or netting.
  • Don’t overload the vehicle.



Americans drive 290 hours annually

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s American Driving Survey, motorists travel nearly 10,900 miles on average and spend 290 hours on the road each year – equivalent to seven 40-hour work weeks. Other findings include:

  • On average, men drive 2,324 more miles than women per year and spend 18 percent more time behind the wheel
  • Motorists in the Midwest and South drive more (11,295 miles annually) compared to those in the Northeast (9,328 miles)
  • More than 50 percent of miles driven by Americans are done in cars, followed by SUVs (20 percent), pickup trucks (17 percent), and vans (7.9 percent)



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