By Royce Jones

CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) – People are pumping their brakes in awe over the high gas prices. The average gas price in Western Pennsylvania has jumped to just above the $3 mark, surpassing the national average of $2.77 per gallon.

According to AAA, the average price of gas in the Pittsburgh area is 9 cents higher this week at $3.051 a gallon. That’s a 50 cent increase from the beginning of 2021. A year ago, the gas price was $2.604.

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(Photo: KDKA Photojournalist Rob Hopson)

Jean Purcell, a driver in Cranberry Township, expressed her frustration to KDKA and said, “it’s annoying, exceptionally annoying.”

Another driver who has been forced to pinch pennies because of the pandemic shared her pain at the pump.

Christopher Wyant from Butler County told KDKA he’s been fighting with a $40 fill-up each week.

“I’ve had to dig into some change a lot recently in change jars,” said Wyant, who happens to be a contractor struggling to find work during the economic crisis.

(Photo: KDKA Photojournalist Aaron Sledge)

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AAA says every state average has climbed by double-digits since February, and one in 10 gas stations have pump prices above $3 a gallon. The report says prices are likely to remain high.

According to AAA, the factors fueling the surge in gas prices include refineries being offline from the Gulf Coast storm and high crude oil costs.

“If crude stabilizes and the price point comes down, maybe closer to that $60 to $50 range, that’s gonna have a huge impact on gas prices,” said AAA East Central spokesperson Jim Garrity.

But consumers are running out of ways to shuffle their money.

Purcell, who lives on a fixed income, has been driving around on empty to conserve gas.

“Just take your time and make sure you do it properly, don’t speed,” said Purcell about how she pulls it off.

And others will search elsewhere for cheaper gas, like Ohio, where prices are 20 to 30 cents less.

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AAA said people should avoid this because they are paying more to get there and risking breaking down on the little bit of gas they do have.