More drivers risk running out of gas

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High gas prices have some people willing to do just about anything to save on fuel, even if they risk running out of gas.

Talon Bohannon, who owns OnCall Roadside Assistance out of Augusta, says he has noticed an increase in drivers running out of gas lately. He thinks it's because rising gas prices have made filling up more of an ordeal, and drivers want to put it off for as long as possible.

"It's becoming a growing trend, unfortunately," Bohannon said.

And the stranded motorists seem to be people living on a tight budget.

"They're living paycheck to paycheck, it seems, and they haven't allowed enough space in their budget to buy enough fuel," he said.

Bohannon charges $45 for a local call from a stranded customer. This includes two or three gallons of gas, which adds up to a hefty price per gallon.

"Besides just being expensive, people don't realize is that it causes damage," he said.

Damage to vehicles can happen even if you do make it to the pump on time, said AAA Club South spokeswoman Joanna Newton.

When the fuel level gets below a quarter tank, sediment can clog the engine and cause costly damage, Newton said. That's a repair that can easily be avoided by filling up before it's an emergency, she added.

Newton said she and her staff have been curious as to whether they would get an increase in calls regarding empty fuel tanks, but so far AAA hasn't seen it.

"I don't think people want to put themselves in that situation," she said of running out of gas. "People will push it, but we don't have an indicator saying that people are riding it out more."

The Georgia Department of Transportation HERO service works within the greater Atlanta metro area, and has noticed an increase in calls related to customers running out of gas.

Public information officer Jill Goldberg said HERO operators are reporting more stranded motorists over the past month, and she thinks it relates to rising fuel rates.

"I wouldn't say we have any scientific evidence, but it's not a difficult connection to make," Goldberg said.

In Columbia County, Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris said he expects the number of stranded drivers to rise with gas prices. He and his staff have not seen an increase in the number of stranded vehicles yet, but he looks for it to increase sometime soon.

"As fuel prices begin to climb, some drivers will push their cars to drive on empty," he said. "It's dangerous, and it's costly in many ways."


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