Drivers in Columbia are paying an average of $3 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline 51 cents more than a year ago.
Gas broke the $3 mark in Columbia on Tuesday and in South Carolina on Sunday, according to AAA Carolinas. Its a psychological flashpoint, spokesman Tom Crosby said.
When the price rises above $3, consumers will start to watch their spending and driving habits more closely, he said, and will be more likely to carpool and drive slower.
If prices rise higher as predicted consumers will start making drastic changes, he said, such as buying hybrid cars and postponing trips. At $4, they plan their day around their car and how much gas they are going to consume, Crosby said.
That, in turn, could slow consumer spending and the economic recovery.