Seventeen-year-old Kyle Taulton fills up his truck's gas tank in Mesa on his way to work.

Michelle Reese, Tribune

Valley drivers could be paying $3 a gallon for gas by the end of the month if the national trend continues.

In the last week, average gas prices have jumped 8 cents across the state, according to AAA Arizona.

"We're really seeing a reversal of what we see this time of year," said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. "This is very unusual. Typically we see prices fall in the fall and they don't increase until spring. That's not happening this year."

Thursday's statewide average was $2.866 a gallon. Last year at this time, the statewide average was $2.572. Nationwide, the average price this week was $2.975.

Oil prices jumped just above $90 a barrel for a bit on Tuesday, the highest it's been in more than two years. The price closed just below $90 on Thursday.

"Some in the market believe there is still some momentum left in the oil market. If oil prices still go up, gas prices will likely reach a new high before the end of the year," she said.

The highest statewide average this year has been $2.91 a gallon.

Some service stations were closing in on that mark this week, and drivers were beginning to notice.

"I do a lot of driving," Kyle Taulton, 17, said. "If it's under $3 a gallon, I'm pretty much OK with it. My truck gets eight miles to the gallon. It's an old truck but I still love it."

Though an older model, the truck is new to Taulton so he's driving more than before, from home to work, to his girlfriend's and his brother's. If gas goes above $3 a gallon, Taulton said he might start shopping around more, rather than making a stop at his usual spot.

Eric Scott, 32, said he noticed gas prices starting to creep up about three weeks ago. On Wednesday, he paid $2.899 a gallon in Mesa on his way to work in Gilbert.

The Glendale resident estimates he spends $520 a month on gas - way more than his truck's $330 payment.

"You do what you've got to do," Scott said. "You can't really change. You still have to get to work."

At the same gas station, Matthew Riggs, 30, filled up a company truck. "I've definitely noticed," Riggs said of the prices. "It's pretty bad. You just have to deal with it."

Down the street at another Mesa station, Queen Creek mom Kim Mlazgar, 44, said she tries to buy gas by her Mesa employer, rather than by home.

The price difference was about 7 cents a gallon this week, she said. She paid $2.85 a gallon on Wednesday. "Really, I keep my eye out (on prices) on my trips back and forth," she said.

Mlazgar said she's not likely to change her driving habits much, even if prices increase. With six kids and her job, there's lots of running around to do. "They all have things to do. Maybe we'll carpool more, but that's the extent. I can't do a lot without changing our lifestyle," she said.

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