Is $5-a-gallon gas on the way?

CHICAGO (AP) — Spikes in gasoline prices occur so regularly that ways to combat them should be almost second nature to car owners.

But the latest surge brings worries of the highest price yet at the pumps, underscoring the urgency of really following up on those money-saving moves this time.

The average price for regular gasoline has jumped to $3.76 a gallon nationwide, up 28.5 cents since Feb. 1, and already tops $4 in some markets. It may be on pace to shatter the all-time record of $4.11 in July 2008 by next month, according to some experts.

Could $5 gas loom in the not-too-distant future?

If higher prices stick, drivers may have to take more drastic steps. Using public transportation is one option to consider. Making the long-term investment to buy a high-mileage hybrid car is another.

"People can cut their gasoline bills by a lot by moving to fuel-efficient vehicles," says Brian Castelli, executive vice president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes energy efficiency. "When you've got $4 gasoline, you can save a lot of money by going to the gas station once every two or three weeks instead of once every week.

The average U.S. household is on track to spend more than $3,300 this year on gasoline for its vehicles, according to the alliance. That could jump significantly depending on how much pump prices rise.

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