Drivers Downsize As Gas Prices Soar

travel, driving, gas prices
High gas prices are posted at a Shell gas station in San Mateo, Calif., Tuesday, May 15, 2007.Most Americans are locked in to their driving habits, and can do little to alter them when prices rise, experts say. Indeed, demand for gasoline rose over the last month, even though prices were rising toward record highs. At the same time, refineries have experienced more downtime this spring than in years past, cutting the gasoline supply. The combination of low supplies and high demand is what's sending prices up to almost $4 a gallon in some areas. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Headed into the holiday weekend, Cheryl Valleau traded in her gas-guzzling SUV for a smaller so-called "crossover" vehicle: part SUV, part midsized car.

Her reason?

"The price of fuel. … It's that simple."

Call it "trickle down fuel-o-nomics."

As gas prices steadily go up, says Tom Libby of J.D. Power & Associates, "owners of big vehicles are moving to midsize and owners of midsize are moving to smaller. ... It's a gradual long term trend."

It's a trend all right. Just follow the fuel prices. CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

In May of 2004, the average cost of gasoline was $2.02 a gallon. Today its $3.22. That means on average consumers are spending an extra $63 a month on gas.

As gas prices have gone up, America's appetite for big vehicles has gone down.

Since 2004, the sale of large SUVs has dropped nearly 17 percent, going from 71,040 sold in April 2004 to 59,297 last month. But for compact cars it's just the opposite: an increase of 12 percent.

The most telling number: those fuel efficient hybrid vehicles, the ones that run on a combination of gasoline and electricity, those sales jumped 300 percent, from 6,832 in April of 2004 to 27,349 last month.

"Gas prices are ridiculous," says Valleau.

Cheryl Valleau is not alone. A new survey by the Consumer Federation of America shows 93 percent of Americans are concerned about the future price of gas and heating oil, and 80 percent support requiring auto companies to increase fuel efficiency.

From the gas pump to the grocery store, we all feel it.

Have you priced milk lately? The cost of milk has gone up an average 20 cents a gallon this year due in part to higher energy and feed costs.

Lorraine Merrill is a third generation dairy farmer in New Hampshire.

She says that if gas prices keep going up, "with the high cost of energy and feed, we would be out of business."

So this Holiday weekend, as travelers get away, there's no escaping the pain at the pump.