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Tune up your driving to save on gas

Tara Baukus MelloSummer driving season is approaching, and that means even higher gas prices: a whopping 66 cents higher per gallon of regular unleaded on average nationwide in late April compared to mid-December. At $3.98 per gallon of regular unleaded on average nationwide, the average driver is spending $36.67 more per month on fuel in late April compared to December.

While gas prices are higher, there's an easy way to spend less on gas. Chances are your driving could use a tune-up that would improve your car's miles-per-gallon rating to the equivalent of at least a 19 cents-per-gallon discount at the pump.

The two worst ways to waste gas are by driving aggressively and by speeding, according to the Department of Energy, or DOE. Yet, today's fast-paced lifestyle means many people are rushing to the next appointment, driving aggressively and speeding. Slowing down and driving more sensibly can result in big fuel-economy gains, according to the DOE.

Aggressive driving is the top way to waste gas. Accelerating rapidly and braking can reduce your gas mileage up to 33 percent, says the DOE, not to mention cause excessive wear and tear on your car. That means driving sensibly could result in a savings of up to $1.31 per gallon, or $72.78 per month.

The biggest drag on gas mileage is speeding when highway driving. Fuel economy drops quickly at speeds of more than 60 mph, due to increased wind and aerodynamics. Driving the speed limit, especially on the highway, can improve your car's mpg up to to 23 percent, according to the DOE. That translates to a savings of up to $59.70 per month for the average driver at current average gas prices.

Those are some huge savings at the gas pump if you are a superaggressive speeder and you change your driving habits. Even using the DOE's most conservative estimates, drivers who give their driving habits a tune-up could realize per-gallon savings that would make most people drive out of their way to score. A 5 percent fuel economy improvement, the low end of the DOE's aggressive-driving estimate, equals a savings of 19 cents per gallon.

Isn't that worth rethinking your driving habits?

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If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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Tara Baukus Mello

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