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Gas Prices May Curb Extreme Commuter

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Gas prices - the national average topped $4 a gallon this week. If you commute like I do, you know that hurts.

But here's a story that might make you say, hmm, at least I don't have it that bad. Dave Givens does. He's an engineer in Northern California.

And Dave Givens, how long is your commute?

Mr. DAVE GIVENS (Engineer): It's about a hundred and eighty-six miles one-way.

SEABROOK: A hundred and eighty-six miles one-way. How many hours a day do you spend in your car?

Mr. GIVENS: About seven.

SEABROOK: And I understand you're in car right now?

Mr. GIVENS: Yes, I am.

SEABROOK: And you're a record holder?

Mr. GIVENS: Well, Midas muffler company here a while back ran a nationwide search for America's longest commuter, and I guess I won by 10 miles.

SEABROOK: So basically, Dave Givens, you drive the widths of California just to get to work each day?

Mr. GIVENS: Pretty close.

SEABROOK: Describe your commute for us.

Mr. GIVENS: Well, I start out about 3:30 in the morning. I arrive at work around, between 7:30 and 8:00 depending on traffic patterns. I try to leave work between 4:30 and 5:00. And I generally arrive home around 8:00.

SEABROOK: Why do you do that?

Mr. GIVENS: Basically, I like my lifestyle. I like where I live. I like my job. And the two just aren't close enough to be compatible with each other.

SEABROOK: So you're at home for two hours every night.

Mr. GIVENS: Yeah. But that's two hours of quality time. I was in the Navy and I spent 11 years at sea out of 13 years. And most of that 11 years was actually gone from home. So it ends up, you know, I'm tired of being separated. Though it's worth it to me to come home and, you know, see my wife and pet the dogs, see the horses and enjoy where I live at even if it's just for a few hours before I go to bed.

SEABROOK: Now, it's sort of a perfect storm for you. California has the highest gas prices in the country. AAA says the state's average hit $4.56 a gallon this week. So how much did it cost you to get to work every day?

Mr. GIVENS: It generally averages around $50. Used to be around only, oh, 25, 30 a day. So it's gone up significantly, but it's not the make or break situation yet. It's getting close, it's getting close.

SEABROOK: What kind of car do you drive, Dave Givens?

Mr. GIVENS: A Honda Accord. When you spend this much time in a car, you got to go for comfort.

SEABROOK: So you're not giving this up anytime soon?

Mr. GIVENS: It just all depends on the gas prices. If it continues going up and it gets, you know, 4.80, $5 a gallon, then it's definitely going to be a reconsideration. But it's not unreasonable yet. I mean, well, it's unreasonable, but it's not out of the realm of doability yet.

SEABROOK: Well, Dave Givens, good luck on your commute.

Mr. GIVENS: Okay.

SEABROOK: Dave Givens is an engineer in California. And for now, at least, he holds the crown of America's longest distance commuter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.